Is Telehealth the New Normal? How COVID-19 is Changing the Future of Healthcare

Steve LoSardo
Publication Date
7 May 2020

Is Telehealth the New Normal? How COVID-19 is Changing the Future of Healthcare

COVID-19 is having surprising impacts on population health but technology may help mitigate the future impact.

In our recent webinar, Reimagining the Patient Journey: Staying Connected in the Post-COVID19 Era, we discussed how the coronavirus has been impacting healthcare over the past several weeks. We found some shocking stats that show just how drastically healthcare will be affected:

  • 90% of practices have limited non-essential appointments while up to 97% report that some patients have cancelled/postponed office visits to keep safety top of mind and limit exposure to COVID-19.
  • Vaccinations will be impacted, putting people at greater risk for diseases that are already under control. For example, The New York Times reported that the administration of measles, mumps and rubella shots dropped by 50%, diphtheria and whooping cough shots dropped by 42% and HPV vaccines dropped by 73%.
  • Nearly half the people in the United States feel the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health.
  • One report found that social isolation contributed to these alarming stats:
    • 50% increased risk of developing dementia
    • 29% increased risk of incident coronary heart disease
    • 25% increased risk for cancer mortality
    • 59% increased risk of functional decline
    • 32% increased risk of stroke

Some patients are even making the decision to cancel their own important appointments because the fear of COVID-19 is scarier than missing a visit. On the other hand, some are cancelling because they are part of the 26 million Americans who have filed for unemployment insurance benefits and need to consider financial implications that come with a visit, prescriptions, and other costs of care. This is leading to a decrease in drug therapy for newly diagnosed patients with hypertension, diabetes, and depression, impacting their health negatively even if they were not infected by COVID-19.

So how is the industry reacting, and what can we do to keep people healthy during these challenging times?

Healthcare: An industry reimagined

With the pandemic still on the horizon for the unforeseeable future, telemedicine is taking the place of in-office doctor visits. Patients are video conferencing with their doctor, leveraging connected devices, such as a smartwatch or digital scale, to keep their doctor informed -- and for some this is a good contingency plan. This does not mean that going to see your doctor or going to the emergency room will go away. It can’t. There will always be instances where face to face visits are necessary. However, there are certainly opportunities to improve the process and rethink the patient journey.

Telemedicine: The saving grace for some patients

Thinking beyond COVID-19, there are some patients who greatly benefit from a virtual visit. Many in the baby boomer population prefer to age at home, and would find it easier to chat with their doctor from the comfort of their kitchen table, rather than trying to find someone in the family to transport them to the doctor’s office where they may have to wait for long periods of time and be exposed to other sick patients. 

In addition, if you think about the journey from a patient’s home to a doctor’s office, there are many surfaces that a patient will touch along the way. As touchless options become more and more preferred, patients will be eager to engage in a contactless way with their provider if their health allows for this method of care.

How can telemedicine transform your organization?

There are many benefits to incorporating telemedicine into your healthcare strategy. We’ve seen telemedicine:

  • Provide quality care
  • Improve health outcomes
  • Lower the cost of care
  • Help patients live a healthier life

So what are some ways that you can think about getting started with telemedicine?

  • Mobile apps: Patients can login and get access to appointment information pre-visit, virtually visit with doctors in the mobile app, send secure messages or photos with health concerns 
  • Contactless Digital Payment, Consent, or Signature: Reduce touch with digital payment. Patients can preload their credit card in-app and authorize copays. Similarly, reading and consenting to HIPAA compliance forms could be done leveraging BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where patients can easily consent from their own mobile phones or devices.
  • Digital Identity Verification: Integrating identity verification into a mobile app could reduce the risk of a breach to a patient’s data.
  • Voice Skill: Imagine if your patients could talk to Alexa to get information and tips that allow them to better manage their disease. 

Ready to think about how telemedicine and other digital solutions could make your patient journey safer, healthier, and more cost efficient? Let’s talk.

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