When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit in 2019, many doctor’s offices had no choice but to offer telemedicine services to their patients.
While this was a temporary approach to protect both patients and staff, it quickly became obvious that telemedicine services also helped to expand access to essential health services for out-of-state patients.
Virtual care has been crucial for treating both COVID-19 patients and patients in need of routine examinations from afar. This temporary shift proves greater room for expansion post-pandemic and has led many doctors and health officials to believe that the service should remain here to stay.
5 reasons why telemedicine should remain
Telehealth has proven to be a faster, safer, and more effective way of screening and treating patients. There is also the potential to improve the healthcare system by providing additional layers of support to those who, prior to the pandemic, were unable to access basic medical care.
Doctors and healthcare professionals can incorporate a number of telemedicine technologies to suit their unique practice and patient base. These include:
- Videoconferencing: used for real-time patient-provider consultations, discussions, screening, and translations.
- Remote patient monitoring: enabling doctors to monitor a patient’s health via wireless devices or mobile apps.
- Store and forward: to electronically transmit patient health information to health care providers.
Telemedicine is important because it can help to achieve several positive outcomes for both patients and health care staff. Incorporating telemedicine in your post-covid medical service strategy will ensure improved healthcare and enhanced cost savings to the health care system.
1.Improved access for patients
Offering virtual visits to patients improves accessibility for those who live afar, who are of lower socioeconomic background, or who are too ill to physically attend a practice.
Telemedicine doesn’t necessarily have to replace in-person visits but can be used as an additional service.
For example, families with children can harness the ease of telemedicine visits and ensure their child gets proper care and treatment without having to worry about the logistics of taking them in for a physical visit. Similarly, older patients who are immobile, bed-ridden, or in aged care facilities can benefit from video health services and get the care they need without having to leave their home.
There are also patients who experience anxiety when attending a medical clinic. These patients are more likely to neglect routine examinations or put off seeking medical attention when needed. By providing telemedicine, these patients can feel like they have a more comfortable option at getting the care they need without the added fear of being in a clinical environment.
Additionally, patients have better access to a variety of specialty health services through telemedicine – including psychiatry and cardiology.
2.Conserves costs and supplies
Telemedicine has reduced the demand for supplies and extra beds in practices and hospitals. By harnessing telemedicine services, medical centres can prevent themselves from becoming overwhelmed.
On average, the cost of a telehealth examination is less than an in-person examination. Many costs associated with an in-person exam aren’t required when conducting a telemedicine examination. For example, telehealth saves on patient transport costs, sanitation supplies (including gloves), patient travel costs, antiseptic materials, PPE, etc. Telemedicine services also decrease any time needed to get a diagnosis and initial treatment and to stabilize or quarantine a patient.
Telemedicine services have been shown to improve timeliness of care. Patients are able to address their health concerns quickly and are in a position to get on-demand urgent care when required. Having real-time consultations helps to provide a diagnosis and treatment options quickly, as well as provide any additional services the patient might require all from a single consultation.
In fact, latest studies have shown that telemedicine patients report being less depressed or anxious about their health problems knowing they have that added option when and if they can’t make an in-person doctor visit. In fact, since telemedicine became an option for urgent care, there has been a reduction in ER and hospital admissions. This helps to relieve an already exhausted hospital system, saving beds and doctors for those who need that critical care.
The bulk of patient visits are to renew prescriptions, ordering ultrasounds/scans, or to undergo routine examinations.
With telemedicine as an option, doctors can save room and time for those patients who need a more thorough check-up or consult. This also makes it easier for patients; allowing them to save their time in travel, waiting, and ordering prescriptions at a pharmacy. With telemedicine, doctors can instantly prescribe medical prescriptions via conference call and fast-track treatment for patients.
Of course, the greatest advantage of telemedicine is that it makes life easier for patients. More than two-fifths of Australian seniors view telemedicine favourably and noted the biggest benefits as 1. saving time traveling and waiting and 2. avoiding exposure to illnesses from other patients.
5.Protects patients and staff
Telemedicine protects medical personnel and patients. This has been evident during the global pandemic. But even beyond COVID-19, staff and patients can benefit from telemedicine’s ability to keep highly-infectious patients from being a risk to others.
The risk of infection makes telemedicine a safe alternative, and also gives patients peace of mind. Consumer shifts have shown that the majority of patients are more inclined to utilize telemedicine, as it provides safe care. There isn’t a need for patients or medical staff to worry about coming into contact with patients who may be infectious or carrying contagions.
Telemedicine should be here to stay
Telemedicine remains important for healthcare beyond COVID-19. A doctor can effectively see more patients without the risk of burn-out or having to deal with “no shows”. It is also a safe alternative in situations where there is a risk of exposure. Patients are in a better position to receive urgent medical care without common restrictions such as time, distance, travel, and cost.
Telemedicine addresses shortages of primary and secondary medical care services, and can extend services to those who are vulnerable or who haven’t got the means to access healthcare the traditional way. Telemedicine technology continues to improve. In reality, it’s still early days. This holds great promise for the future of this service, with more technological advancements and better ease of patient services on the horizon.