The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging period that affects the entire population and all working fields. However, despite its damaging effect on a variety of levels, the crisis also brought new opportunities for telemedicine and increased the usage of telehealth services. Now, more people acknowledge the benefits of virtual medical care, and they start considering it a smart addition to the standard healthcare, or even an alternative to it.
According to the Massachusetts General Hospital, telemedicine users are extremely satisfied with the new method of consultation. 79% of respondents to the survey consider that virtual care is more convenient in terms of scheduling, 83% believe that the services are better or as good as in- person care, and 66% felt connected to their telehealth practitioner on a personal level. As the popularity of telehealth increases, providers need to adapt to keep up with their competitors.
A report from McKinsey has discussed the raise. The paper states that companies supporting telehealth have expended their services, and they see up to 175% increase in the number of costumers. While this remarkable growth has highlighted the importance of a telemedicine software platform in each practice, it has also underlined the flaws existing in both regulations and software itself.
Before the pandemic began, telemedicine wasn’t much of big business, with companies’ annual income in the U.S. being 3$ billion. The providers were usually focusing on video conferences with doctors. Since the crisis, sellers started adapting their platforms to more services. However, despite the increase in customers, many providers are still sceptical when it comes to telemedicine. The reason behind this attitude stands in the lack of technical training for the staff, and the massive infrastructure issue within medical facilities to support remote services.
The challenges aren’t stopping telemedicine from growing, and McKinsey approximates that a sum of $250 billion from the U.S. health investments can be, at least theoretically, virtualized soon. Investing in telemedicine is crucial because regressing rather than evolving would create massive destruction if another similar crisis would strike in the future.
The Growth of Telemedicine
People are more acceptant of telemedicine, but the following steps are crucial if we want to work more with virtual care after the pandemic ends. There is an urgent need for investment and initiative and the first to act towards this goal of growing virtual medicine are the providers themselves.
Having a successful transition or connection with telehealth requires investing time in the personnel for them to learn, and money in equipment for physicians to use.
- When providers make a telehealth software comparison, they must focus on the platform that would facilitate the smoothest transitions for everyone in the staff. In every
telehealth demo, providers are presenting their qualities, but the most significant aspect to look after is integration and access.
- Most health facilities nowadays have a platform, and EHR, which is already known to the patient. The telemedicine platform must integrate with the already existing technology to make the process more familiar to the public. Providers must make sure that the changes are easy to understand, so the users won’t get frustrated and give up on the
online side of their healthcare. To avoid that, medical facilities could go as far as creating online tutorials for the patients, but also the personnel. Many of the ones who need
constant monitoring and often consults are old, and some might have trouble using any online platform without help.
- Mobile telehealth should also be a concern for providers. If there are people who don’t have access to a computer, there are far fewer persons without a phone. While the
telehealth platform cost might be higher for this additional feature, it is undoubtedly a good investment, as it would facilitate better communication with the patients and would
make telemedicine even more efficient than it already is.
Telehealth is the Future
Telehealth proved its quality, and virtual care should be continually supported. Even though in the past it was impossible to even imagine this kind of technology, nowadays telemedicine might be the element that would transform our society into a healthier one. Why? Patients will be more likely to see a doctor if it doesn’t require days of waiting for an appointment or standing in an uncomfortable, stressful setting. Besides that, people with moderate conditions could be treated at home, while hospitals and clinics would have more space for critical cases.
Technology is clear support for medicine, at first for surgeries, then for administrative issues that make the process of being treated efficient and fast. However, there are still many facilities without much modern technology, which negatively impacts both the patients and the medical staff. Some hospitals are accepting changes and slowly adapt to the modern era, and they are most likely to have a better financial income than the others. It is demanding to emphasize on the fact that other medical crisis will appear in the future as well.
In less than a decade, we have fought and still fighting with MERS, Ebola, the Zika virus, and now COVID-19. This last pandemic has highlighted the importance of telemedicine and, hopefully, policymakers, physicians, and patients learn the right lessons and will improve virtual care. Having an undefeatable medical system with online annex might be the instrument that protects us against the next threat and helps us overcome the chaos.
Nevertheless, telemedicine will only grow if people are aware of its existence and efficiency. During the Coronavirus pandemic, several videos of tired doctors have been circulating on the internet, trying to determine people to stay home and protect themselves from the virus. They
were begging people to take care of themselves because there was no more space in the hospital.
The government and private companies have created strategies and campaigns to make people take social distancing seriously. A similar approach for telehealth would be highly beneficial. Online education programs and massive advertising could create a better view for those who are still afraid to use virtual care.
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