Supplying the Demand: How Telehealth Has Expanded During the Pandemic

There have been many hopeless moments throughout the year 2020. Loved ones feel distant, the future seems uncertain, and the world just looks vaguely more dangerous than it ever has.

And yet, the Earth keeps spinning.

Our needs cannot be placed on hold. We must rise to the considerable challenges facing us and engineer a better tomorrow. One of the most immediate demands that humankind has is health care. Even the thought of medical issues instantly conjures up the specter of COVID-19, but clients have a wide array of conditions and concerns.

Just as the Earth keeps spinning, patients’ needs keep growing.

To meet the moment, we are pioneering new answers. In the old days, doctors would make house calls to attend to infirm individuals who couldn’t make the treacherous trek to the clinic. Now, we have the benefit of making the ultimate house call: online medical appointments. 

Telemedicine has filled the void left behind by calamity and caution. The novel coronavirus drove us indoors, online, and up to date on wellness maintenance. Now, we need to ensure that we don’t slide back into isolation and neglect. By galvanizing our security protocols and streamlining our payment systems, we can provide the best quality care for our patients without sacrificing safety and privacy.

In short: we must supply the demand… and the demand is overwhelming. 

BY THE NUMBERS: THE EXPONENTIAL GROWTH OF TELEHEALTH

When you visit a doctor or therapist, you want to explain what’s wrong and show them where it hurts. Well, many of those goals can be achieved online, and it took the unfortunate spread of COVID-19 to realize the potential of telemedicine. Patients are now taking advantage of their online options in droves.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of Medicare recipients utilized telehealth services back in February. After the pandemic spread, however, those statistics skyrocketed. Two short months later, the figure was 43.5%. That’s an increase of over 400 times the number of Medicare patients turning to online health services due to the novel coronavirus.

While many naysayers may point to the shortcomings of online medical visits, we prefer to focus on the opportunities. Patients do not need to risk exposure to the COVID virus when they can stay safely at home for their respective appointments. Health care workers can also maintain their safety if they are not welcoming a flood of new guests to their already overworked clinics. If and when physicians do accept in-person visitors, they must gear up with expensive personal protective equipment (PPE), which adds to the overall cost of a doctor’s appointment.

In addition to the financial and physical benefits that telehealth innovations offer, there are also a number of corresponding psychological perks, as well. 

TELEMEDICINE ALLEVIATES STRESS

An essential passage in the Hippocratic oath vows to “First, do no harm.” Patients are so wary of seeking medical attention during the COVID-19 crisis that the very thought of visiting a clinic in-person strikes fear in their hearts. In order to truly “do no harm,” we must work together to find new ways to ease their stress and alleviate their concerns.

Telemedicine is an excellent way to provide some face time via Facetime (or Zoom or Skype, etc.) to your clientele. Making that personal connection with your public is vital to creating and maintaining the doctor/patient relationship. You can assess your clients’ needs without adding to their anxiety by meeting virtually and creating a strategy for their overall healthcare.

But tele-visits not only reduce stress for the individual; they also provide solace to the family unit as a whole. Even before the pandemic changed our society forever, there were fascinating studies conducted on the topic of telehealth and its capability to bolster at-home care. The results illustrate how telenursing proves to be a valuable complement to in-person care, especially when a patient’s needs are constant and profound.

Those studies were conducted in 2012. Now multiply that dynamic times a million. 

COVID-19 has prevented many of us from seeing our families for months at a time. Primary caregivers have become the ONLY caregivers in many scenarios because adding a variety of nurses and family members to the mix would multiply the chance of coronavirus transmission. Telenursing can relieve some of the stress placed on that primary caregiver and allow for multiple perspectives on the care and attention that homebound patients need. Your second opinion is just a click away!

TELETHERAPY: THE DOCTOR IS IN… A ZOOM CALL

As mentioned earlier, one of the residual threats that COVID presents the health care community is the rise of anxiety. We are all concerned about contracting or transmitting the virus, so we are walking on proverbial eggshells these days.

That is why telepsychiatry is an essential new discipline. By providing online counseling, therapists can connect with their clients while helping them maintain their peace of mind. Telepsychiatry allows patients to access quality mental health care without facing possible exposure to coronavirus. Online counseling is the future, and the future is now.

EQUIP YOUR ORGANIZATION

To best prepare for the unprecedented growth in telemedicine, you need to step back and think about what truly matters. Your clients are already online, so you need to meet them on their turf with confidence and smart strategies.

Lightning Step can help you strengthen your security protocols and expand your clientele. Simplify your billing protocols and make your administrative practices transparent for your staff and patients alike. To learn how you can step into the next phase of online wellness, step up to innovation. Contact us at your earliest convenience.

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