The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise, and that’s no secret. We were never prepared for the situation that unraveled for the past year, so all that was left to do was try to rapidly adapt to what was happening.
Besides the obvious negative impacts that the pandemic had on our lives, the past year has also brought tremendous change into the way patients receive care from their doctors. Thankfully, technology is now our greatest ally, making it possible for people to be seen by their doctors without having to come in for an in-person appointment. This is known as telemedicine, and has grown tremendously in popularity in the past few years.
The pandemic crisis accelerated access to telemedicine and other types of remote health services, helping patients get in touch with their doctors without having to spend hours in the waiting room or make appointments at weird hours.
Telemedicine offers a range of benefits for patients, including improved access to care, better outcomes, and less exposure, allowing high-risk patients to continue their treatment even if they can not come to the doctor’s office.
Telehealth is not a novelty and has brought a lot of benefits for patients before, but we have only recently started to understand its full benefits, which can go beyond what’s happening during the pandemic. Below are some of the most important advantages of telemedicine- a range of advantages we thing will continue to be just as important in a post-COVID-19 world.
Improving In-Person Care
Telemedicine should not be perceived as a replacement for in-person care but rather an addition to it. Take, for example, the past year. As the pandemic forced us to shelter in place, it also prevented non-COVID patients from getting access to proper healthcare due to how crowded hospitals and healthcare facilities became. Through telemedicine, patients can receive the same type of care they would if they were able to see their doctor in person.
Before the pandemic, healthcare facilities that practiced telemedicine used to receive about 100 calls a day. Since March last year, the situation changed and patients became more and more interested in leveraging the benefits of telemedicine. Doctors are now receiving ten times more calls, and the number is expected to continue to remain high even after the pandemic.
Access To Care For Everyone
Most patients don’t get proper medical care because they have limited access to it due to various reasons. Some don’t have enough financial resources, others live in remote areas, and some simply lack the mobility to visit a doctor every time they need to.
As the pandemic prompted us to limit physical contact for as much as possible, more and more doctors started providing telemedicine services to their patients. This allows people to have better access to healthcare without having to drive for multiple hours or find someone to accompany them to the doctor in case they can’t go alone. Take nursing homes, for example, where the majority of patients don’t have the mobility to go to the doctor whenever something is wrong and are more exposed to coronavirus risks. Telemedicine for nursing homes has the potential to help both patients and care providers navigate these tumultuous times with lower risks of exposure to the virus.
Telehealth services can turn into a safety net for patients that have difficulty in accessing proper healthcare services, regardless if there is a public health emergency or not.
Lower Costs For Healthcare
The rising cost of healthcare is another concern that people have had, long before the coronavirus pandemic was a thing. Preventative care and treatments have become more expensive than ever before, making it more difficult for low-income individuals and those living in rural areas to find affordable solutions.
The current health crisis has done nothing but makes this issue more obvious, but telemedicine can be the solution to help millions of people get access to proper medical care. This method is much more equitable and reduces the final bill, making it easier for anyone to receive the special care they need. If a traditional appointment costs between $150 and $200 for uninsured individuals, a telehealth appointment costs around $80 and can go as low as $20 for those who have insurance.
Better Management Of Chronic Diseases
Traditional healthcare methods still struggle to help patients manage chronic diseases, so there is no wonder people ask themselves how telemedicine can help solve a life-long issue. Nearly 75% of healthcare spending goes to chronic diseases, and it estimated that almost half of Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. This shows there is a tremendous need for improvement in this area in order to keep saving lives.
Patients that suffer from a chronic disease require constant care and support from doctors and specialists in order to properly manage their condition and continue living a normal life. Telemedicine enables improved communication between doctors and patients, helping them better manage their condition and provide individuals with on-demand access to medical resources.
Reducing Readmission Rates
Most ER admissions are returning patients that suffer from a known condition and seek immediate help due to concerns after getting released from the hospital. While it is understandable that some people are afraid of potential complications, this crowds emergency rooms and makes it difficult for people with real emergencies to receive proper care.
Through telemedicine and remote monitoring, doctors can keep an eye on the patients’ condition after discharge and address any concerns the individual may have about their situation. This reduces readmission rates and allows ER personnel to focus on people that need immediate care.
Boosting Hospital Revenue
Missed appointments can significantly reduce hospital revenues, costing the industry more than $105 B a year. There are many reasons people cancel their medical appointments, but the main ones are lack of money and inability to travel.
With telemedicine, these issues can be tackled by scheduling a phone or video meeting with the doctor. The patient can attend the appointment from the comfort of their own home, paying much less and receiving the care they need. This helps hospitals boost patient retention and improve the overall healthcare experience for people in need.