Why Telemedicine Will Be the Digital Solution for Patient Access Moving Forward
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, patients and healthcare consumers are turning towards digital solutions for access to healthcare. In fact, a report by McKinsey & Company found that COVID-19 has accelerated consumer adoption of digital solutions. For healthcare systems, this shift is a unique opportunity to establish themselves as a trusted source that patients can rely on for digital solutions that address their healthcare needs - with telemedicine at the center of patient expectations.
Across the country, patients and providers are using telemedicine to communicate and receive treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only does telemedicine keep providers and patients safe from infection, but it allows patients to maintain contact with their provider for routine care and non-COVID related health issues.
Healthcare providers are already seeing a significant increase in telemedicine services during this time. A recent report from Kaiser Health News found that the Cleveland Clinic experienced a 1,665% increase in virtual visits during the month of March. As the pandemic continues and government restrictions loosen, it’s safe to assume consumer adoption of telemedicine will continue long into the future.
Here’s why telemedicine will be at digital solution for patient access moving forward into a post-COVID world.
It’s no secret that the healthcare industry lags behind other industries in terms of adopting consumer-friendly technologies. Fortunately, strides have been made in recent years with self-service tools like online scheduling, symptom checkers, and live chat access, to name a few. Now, these consumer-friendly features are no longer “nice to have” but are features that healthcare consumers expect from their provider. In fact, according to a survey by Healthgrades, 80% of patients prefer physicians who offer online scheduling and 81% of surveyed respondents would choose physicians who offered online scheduling over those who don’t.
In a post-COVID world, patients will react similarly to healthcare providers who do not provide access to telemedicine services.
As patients remain hesitant to rush into hospitals for face-to-face consultations due to fears around contracting the coronavirus, they’ll turn to telemedicine services for access to care. If a healthcare system does not offer telemedicine services, it’s reasonable to suspect those patients will turn to other providers who do offer the service. A survey by Stage Growth Partners and Black Book Market Research found that 33% of respondents would leave their current physician for a provider that offered telemedicine services. Additionally, a study by Accenture found that 49% of patients surveyed are more likely to choose a provider that offers the ability to communicate with a doctor via video.
More Consumers Understand and Use the Technology
In the television show, The Jetsons, video conferencing was a futuristic novelty used by a generation equipped with flying cars and robot maids. In 2020, with entire businesses operating remotely and friends and family using the service to stay connected, video conferencing and the technology to use it are now a part of everyday life.
For most consumers, the idea of communicating with a healthcare provider is no different than a family member. Young consumers (18-34) especially find telemedicine services more convenient, with 81% of survey respondents stating a consultation with their physician remotely is the best option for them.
More Affordable Than Ever
Oftentimes, mass adoption of new technologies or services doesn’t occur until the price of entry is low enough for everyday consumers to afford. After all, the first computer cost $95,000 in 1972, or nearly $500,000 in today’s dollars. Currently, the cost of receiving onsite medical treatment is already high, with some visits to the emergency department costing more than $2,000. However, UnitedHealthcare estimates that telemedicine sessions costs significantly less at nearly $50 a session.
The cost difference itself will lead many patients turning towards telemedicine services in the future for more affordable access to care.
Access Anywhere, Anytime, Day or Night
Keeping patients engaged in their health leads to healthier outcomes. When patients have the capability to conveniently communicate with providers for routine care, symptom management, or post-op monitoring, the opportunity for a positive outcome increases. Telemedicine provides patients with 24/7 access to take a proactive approach to their health. Similarly, as the pandemic continues and patients with mild symptoms are encouraged to stay home, telemedicine provides a way to remotely monitor a patient’s recovery and ongoing health.
For rural parts of the country, telemedicine provides critical access to care in an area of that country deeply in need. After all, 20% of the population lives in rural areas, but only 9% physicians service those areas. By offering telemedicine services, hospitals and providers in rural areas can immediately expand the type of services they offer to patients who need access.
Preparing for a Post-COVID Transition
The current crisis has many healthcare providers scrambling to implement telemedicine services – sometimes in a matter of weeks. Although the governments loosening of telemedicine restrictions and the FCC’s recent announcement of $200 million in funding towards telemedicine grants makes access to capital for telemedicine services easier, implementing a successful telemedicine program requires much more than a “patchwork” approach.
Partnering with a telemedicine service that understands how to overcome the hurdles, incorporate telemedicine into existing workflows, and recruit and train remote providers can streamline the implementation of telemedicine services in a matter of weeks. With the stresses and challenges created by the ongoing crisis, having a partner to manage a project is critical to ensure long-term success.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for all of us and many healthcare organizations wouldn’t have chosen to reboot or plan a new phase in patient access during such a challenging time. However, with preparation and the right partner, the healthcare system that chooses to focus on patient access through telemedicine will emerge better than ever at providing patients with the necessary level of access in a post-COVID world.
To learn more about partnering with VirtualMed Staff for telemedicine services, schedule a demo.