Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, different associations and companies have
started documenting the impact it will have on distinct fields. As expected, people were most
interested in medicine and the way it will change after the crisis. A recent study has proved that
people’s attitude towards telehealth has considerably altered as they had to use digital tools and a telemedicine solution. If at the beginning of the pandemic people accessed virtual services out of necessity, now they understand its value and seriously consider using it after the emergency ends.
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Accenture is a global professional services company with 530,000 employees offering high-quality assistance in over 120 countries. In May, they have surveyed 2,700 patients from China, France, Germany, Japan, UK, and US (450 patients from each country). Patients were having different issues (oncology, cardiology, immunology patients), and they needed to take self-administrating treatment or receive it from a healthcare facility. During the study, each of the six counties was going through restrictions imposed due to the virus.
The aim of the survey was to understand how drastically did Coronvirus change medicine and what is the attitude patients have towards these modifications.
Results of the Survey
- The most intriguing fact discovered by Accenture was that at least 60% of patients who turned to virtual care during the pandemic are open to using it regularly in the future. The experience they gathered while being quarantined or restricted was enough to find several satisfactions in using telehealth.
- Nine out of ten patients were so satisfied with these services that considered them as good or even better than before.
- 70% of patients delayed or cancelled at least a few elements of their treatment to avoid exposure to the virus.
- Half of the patients begun treatment at home and accepted to use video conferences, online chat, and even apps. 63% of video conferencing users classified it as “very good” or “excellent” (70% were using this tool for the first time for their treatment).
- Patients state that the responses they get are also improved, with 47% considering them “more personalized”, 41% “quicker”, and 40% “more convenient to access”.
- One of the most encouraging findings is that patients’ trust in the medical field increased, 63% trusting their healthcare providers more, while 45% have increased confidence in the pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
The general attitude towards telehealth changed because COVID-19 forced people to choose this system to protect themselves from both the virus and the tremendous amount of anxiety and stress related to it. They realized the impact virtual tools have on their schedule, budget, and health. Instead of stressing in the waiting room, surrounded by other people, they received professional care in the comfort of their homes.
For telemedicine to continue after the pandemic ends, it needs to meet certain conditions:
- America’s Health Insurance Plans appreciates that for insurers to continue covering telehealth after the crisis, policymakers should be more flexible in benefit designs;
- Virtual care should be comparable to in-person care;
There are currently various modifications brought to the actual policies, to facilitate care during the pandemic, and, hopefully, after it ends. The main regulatory barriers to telemedicine access are restrictions around geographic areas, originating sites and state licensure requirements.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is doing as much as possible to maintain telehealth in the medical system after COVID-19 crisis ends;
- Federal policymakers have made more than 30 modifications to enable better access to telemedicine. In June, members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions determined how many of the changes should be permanent.
Importance of Telemedicine Integration
In a telehealth software comparison, it is noticeable how the most efficient ones are those with a high rate of integration. Regardless of the telemedicine platform cost, the software must be easy to work with and suitable for the practice. The integration should be a process in which the most significant aspect should be the good connection of the telemedicine platform with the electronic health record system (EHR).
The entire practice revolves around the EHR it uses, and therefore telemedicine technology must integrate with the existing EHR technology.
If the integration is right, the practice will notice how well telemedicine is working along with the other projects. If the HER technology and telemedicine platform are related, there will be a complete documentation of virtual visits, less duplicated records, easier access for the patients, and the process of finding the suitable telehealth platform will be much smoother.
The Overall Impact
Before the pandemic, telemedicine seemed like a distant future, but the crises brought it in people’s attention earlier. The virus turned a large number of patients and physicians into advocates of virtual visits, as they benefit both the provider and the receiver. Accenture’s survey is proof that Coronavirus offered the opportunity to try technological instruments, and make people realize how convenient and trustworthy they are. The crisis put an end to people’s fear of unknown or technological failure. Experts in telemedicine and health agree that these changes are useful and are a great thing they happened faster. Joe Kvedar, MD, president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association in Arlington, Virginia says that
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