With the United States grappling with over 2.3 million cases of the novel coronavirus and as dozens of states see a sudden resurgence of infections, health professionals are actively looking for ways to provide quality care that doesn’t risk their patients’ health.
Welcome to the new age of telehealth.
Though the current pandemic has dramatically altered our everyday lives, one shift that has emerged could serve to give patients better access to consistent (and affordable) healthcare. The use of telehealth presents an option for receiving in-home care without exposing patients, medical staff, and the larger community to COVID-19. And, with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions being particularly vulnerable to the virus, telehealth ensures that these populations can get the care they need from the comfort of their own homes.
But, the far-reaching benefits that telehealth provides is why it will quickly become the new healthcare normal, and possibly stay that way even after a coronavirus vaccine is developed.
Greater access to healthcare
Since telehealth generally only requires the use of a smartphone or internet-enabled device, doctors and specialists can provide medical advice and perform simple diagnostic evaluations remotely. This opens up the opportunity for at least 57 million Americans living in rural areas, that traditionally are medically underserved, to now have access to consistent quality medical care.
Fewer insurance restrictions
As a result of the pandemic, insurance companies and Medicare have loosened their restrictions, enabling telehealth to be covered for routine visits. For senior citizens, this is a huge benefit, allowing them to still monitor their health with a professional without needing to put themselves around large groups of people.
Increased patient privacy
When you’re able to virtually meet with a medical professional and avoid the scrutiny of sitting in a waiting room, this lowers the stress burden for many patients. This is especially true for medical areas, such as mental health, that are often stigmatized by the larger society. In this way, telehealth offers not just convenience, but also an added level of privacy that empowers patients to seek treatment for illnesses or symptoms that they may have been ashamed to do otherwise. In fact, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield, over 50% of their telehealth claims, since March 2020, have been for mental health services.
Lower cost of care
Without the added administrative and overhead expense of seeing a doctor in their office or at a hospital, telehealth can save patients up to $121 per visit, over a traditional appointment. This can significantly save patients, especially those that lack medical insurance, on unexpected medical bills. And, with a lower operational cost to the practice or hospital system, by seeing fewer patients in-person, that cost savings can then be allocated to invest in building a larger telehealth infrastructure or in acquiring more advanced medical equipment.
As the number of benefits of telehealth continue to outweigh the negatives, surveys have found that 59% of patients are much more willing now to consider telehealth than before the pandemic. Expect this willingness to rise, as the pandemic stretches through the end of the year, making it very clear that telehealth will become the new staple in healthcare. So much so, experts now estimate that telehealth will be a $175.5 billion market by 2026. If you haven’t considered or already rolled out a telehealth option for your practice or hospital system, then now is the time to do so. Providing greater access to your patients – no matter what happens with COVID-19 – is a clear win-win for everyone involved. Need help evaluating the right telehealth marketing strategy to get the word out? Let me know, I’ve used some highly-effective strategies to help healthcare systems and clinics launch their telehealth offerings.