Telehealth has come a long way over the past few years and its uptake numbers have greatly increased. During the pandemic, the technology offered healthcare institutions a way to allocate resources better and reach vulnerable patients. Remote care is efficient and effective, and it’s here to stay. The technology will continue to play an essential role in healthcare efforts after the pandemic.
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of telehealth and how it can be used to ensure patients get the best possible care.
How Telehealth Has Evolved Over the Years
Despite its recent increased uptake, telehealth isn’t a new concept. The term “telemedicine” first appeared in the 1970s, according to a paper published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010.
In recent years, technological advancements have seen telehealth evolve significantly. Remote patient monitoring (RPM), also known as remote care, is one form of telehealth used by practices to track the health and progress of patients.
Chronic care management (CCM) solutions allow practices to better cater to patients’ individual needs.
How Telehealth Is Helping Patients
For patients, the benefits of telehealth are wide and varied. During the pandemic, virtual care allowed patients to avoid places with a high risk of infection. Once the pandemic is over, patients will still benefit from not needing to travel long distances—especially chronic illness sufferers, who need regular check-ins to keep up with their treatment.
By bringing care to the home, practices can provide consistent support, improve patient care plans, and boost their overall well-being. Instead of sticking to clinic opening hours, they can do so whenever is best for the patient. Individuals can fulfill their daily duties, such as working and looking after their families.
Above all, telehealth is increasing access for patients who would otherwise be left without. Telehealth visits cost $79 per session. In comparison, in-person visits usually cost around $146. Telehealth also means that people living rurally can receive the support they need.
The Role Telehealth Will Play in Healthcare Post-Pandemic
It’s unrealistic to expect that telehealth will entirely replace in-person visits even once the pandemic is over. However, the two treatment options will work in tandem.
In a post-COVID world, practices will focus on using telehealth for consultations to identify symptoms early on and manage patient care plans remotely. Patients will still need to visit clinics for in-person care and procedures.
Another area that telehealth will improve is coaching and education. It’s difficult to have all of a patient’s questions answered during a short office visit with a physician. Fortunately, telehealth offers opportunities to provide access to online resources and more convenient consultations.
Mental health improves with remote care, as well. According to research conducted in 2020 by Mental Health America, almost 83% of participants said their work was emotionally draining. Meanwhile, one in three said they couldn’t afford their healthcare costs.
Telehealth offers assistance in both areas. Employees can receive mental health support virtually, while the cost is lower than if they were to solely rely on in-person visits (where they would have to alter their work schedule to fit them in).
Barriers to Patients Getting the Best Possible Care via Telehealth
Despite telehealth’s benefits and the promise it offers, some barriers do exist to giving patients the best possible care via remote access.
One area of concern is how worried patients might feel about their privacy. In 2019, Pew Research Center found that 81% of participants in a survey said the risks of companies collecting data about them outweigh the benefits. Patients need assurances about how their data will be handled and protected.
The availability and quality of internet access might also impact the speed of telehealth adoption. In New York, for example, the average internet speed is 190.5 megabytes per second and broadband coverage is 96.8%. Comparatively, Mississippi has an average internet speed of 84.5 megabytes per second, and broadband coverage is significantly lower, too, standing at 58.7%.
These gaps in internet access could lead to significant gaps in healthcare access for patients in less technologically advanced states—and it most certainly will lead to a slower uptake in some areas.
How to Overcome These Barriers
To overcome problems related to remote care and other forms of telehealth, education is critical. Practices must offer training for patients and help them set themselves up accordingly, especially if they’re working with individuals who aren’t tech-savvy.
It’s also vital that clinics explicitly show how they will use patients’ data. They must ensure patient privacy, show that they will not use it for financial benefit, and clarify how the information will be disposed of once they’re finished with it.
When it comes to the internet, practices must factor in internet connection speed levels in different states. But it’s not only up to them; internet providers must build a more robust infrastructure in parts of the country that need it. This will likely take a long time, but making the first steps now is essential for a healthier nation.
How ChronWell Can Help
ChronWell offers a range of remote care solutions that can be used in states with a broad range of internet connection levels. Clinics can also benefit from tailored solutions to help deal with long-term illnesses. With ChronWell, practices will also get user-friendly software that makes it easy to set up both on their end and for the patient.
To see how ChronWell’s digital health and clinical solutions help practices offer more effective healthcare, contact an expert today.
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