It’s hard to imagine a world where people don’t have to visit a healthcare clinic in–person to receive medical care. Despite the existence of impressive technology that allows for remote appointments, physical visits have always been preferred.
However, the world’s current state is such that hospitals and medical practices are being avoided by the masses.
Regardless of the reasons for this behavior, ailing people still must obtain care. As such, industry professionals have been doing what they can to treat patients in a way that makes them feel safe from the virus.
One way medical professionals are adjusting to this prevalent patient behavior is through the recent telehealth surge.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is an all-encompassing term that applies to all forms of medical care given that don’t involve direct physical contact.
Providers can work alongside other practitioners and with patients through either video or telephone conferencing.
Though, treatments aren’t dependent on the immediate face-to-face contact. Patient portals and e-consults are also prime components of telehealth. There are even chatbots acting as virtual agents – as well as wearable devices.
How Much has Telehealth Grown During the Past Few Months?
Before this year, it’s a drastic understatement to say that telehealth was underutilized.
That isn’t to say it wasn’t playing a role—but the various technologies were used in a more supplemental capacity. Even healthcare systems considered successful adopters of telehealth would see only 100 video patients per day.
Those numbers are paltry compared to the 600+ patients per day now commonly being seen via video call. One institution cites an increase in telehealth visits that went from 1% of total appointments to 70%. For this organization, there have been up to 1,000 of these kinds of patients per day.
It’s a monumental, unprecedented industry shift, and the earliest adopters will be the ones that benefit most.
What Does the Future Hold for Medical Care?
In the foreseeable future, experts predict that people with chronic diseases might leave their conditions unchecked. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs, but it seems to be the overall trend of patient behavior.
Emergency departments have reported a considerable decrease in visits and foot traffic. One example is the significant decline (between 40% and 70%) in acute ST-segment myocardial elevation cases.
This hesitance to get treatment for even severe conditions can lead to a slippery slope. Unmanaged symptoms will grow worse, and complications are almost all-but guaranteed. Over time, the overwhelming need for care will lead to a boiling point. Suddenly, hospitals will be overrun with the patients that were previously avoiding emergency rooms and other medical facilities at all costs.
How Can Telecare Help?
Telehealth offers a way for medical practitioners to proactively engage patients, which will – in turn – mitigate the pending load placed on the healthcare system.
With a robust and sustainable infrastructure, telehealth implementation will help ensure that hospitals maximize space and staff. As these services continue to develop, they’ll likely veer into medical referrals, such as rural and critical access hospitals that exist in a given network.
If current trends are any indicator, it will be a long time before people feel comfortable visiting a hospital or medical practice. When these anxieties have finally been mitigated, telehealth will be a much more accepted and convenient option for most patients. While in-person visits are bound to increase at one point, telemedicine will continue to play a pivotal role in successful patient outcomes.