Technology has empowered us to remotely access products and services that, in the past, would have required face-to-face interaction. We can shop online for just about anything, rather than having to drive to a shopping mall and walk into a store. An increasing percentage of the workforce works remotely at least some of the time. Moreover, even activities we associate with in-person visits — like going to the doctor — are changing as a result of advances in communications technology.
The healthcare industry is embracing telehealth — the provision of healthcare-related services via digital outlets — for a few key reasons. Case in point: The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled an abrupt rise in contactless, virtual doctor visits in lieu of visiting a physical office during a pandemic. As Medical Economics reports, 63 percent of people who take advantage of telehealth appointments do so because it enables them to avoid exposure to potential illness.
In general, it’s oftentimes more convenient for providers and patients alike to expedite certain interactions. But telehealth brings other advantages as well, like the ability to service rural and otherwise underserved populations, like those without easy access to transportation. The ability to rapidly connect with a healthcare provider also helps patients in certain situations get the care they need quickly rather than having to wait for the next available office appointment.
Here are four examples of telehealth in action that’ll become more normalized as providers roll out these services and insurance policies cover them.
- Virtual Medical Appointments
People often think of virtual appointments first when considering telehealth. If you’ve ever had to find time to visit the doctor for a quick appointment to confirm what you already know — yet another sinus infection, for instance — you’ve probably wished you could have just checked in remotely from home, gotten your prescription and went on with your day.
There will always be situations in which patients need to see a doctor in person, of course. But, according to the results of a Kaiser Permanente survey, nine out of 10 patients who utilized a virtual doctor said they found it more convenient than traditional methods. Ultimately, only four out of 10 survey respondents said they’d prefer to stick to a physical appointment.
This is an exciting development for those who find it difficult to get off of work, or people who need a quick consultation during a time slot outside regular office hours.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making a splash in the healthcare field, enabling providers to monitor their patients’ health statuses remotely through wearable and web-connected devices.
As Healthcare IT News cites, some 88 percent of hospitals and health systems have already invested in RPM tech, or will do so in the near future.
Besides helping strengthen the remote connection between providers and patients, RPM is aiding population health efforts by providing valuable information to clinicians and administrators. Using healthcare analytics to analyze data transmitted through RPM can help decision-makers throughout the industry better understand patient experiences and drive more positive outcomes over time.
- Medical Mobile Apps
Medical mobile apps offer patients another outlet for monitoring their health, consulting recommendations and guidelines in an accessible format. One example, per Mayo Clinic, would be a patient with diabetes using an app to estimate the amount of insulin needed to regulate their blood sugar, based upon personalized inputs like exercise level and dietary habits.
- Online Patient Portals
Remember the days of waiting for a phone call from your healthcare provider to deliver lab results? Patients now have the option to set up their own patient portal online — granting them direct access to lab results, medical history, secure messages, payment information, allergies, immunization records and more.
As you can see from these four examples, telehealth is rising in usage because it offers patients and providers a secure and convenient way to communicate outside of in-person appointments.