The World Is (Slowly) Opening Back Up – What Is Next for Telehealth?
As we’ll be discussing over the next few weeks, the onset of COVID-19, and necessity of increased telemedicine measures, has created many new challenges, risks, and unexpected benefits to the healthcare industry. The question we must ask is: ‘Where do we go from here?’ Now that the telehealth genie has been let out of the proverbial bottle, it has expanded at an astonishing and necessary pace. Luma Health found that 8 out of 10 patients wanted to reschedule their appointments online after they were cancelled due to the pandemic. Companies that had their sights set on expanding into telemedicine ‘at some point in the future’ were forced to get a viable product to market in a matter of weeks. Insurance companies have had to bend, and in some cases, completely rewrite the regulations on telehealth offerings. So now what? We are in a more stable environment–having found new routines and ways to adapt to a more virtual world professionally and socially. Companies, providers, and patients have pivoted and adjusted to an expectation of a virtual offering for healthcare services. We now ask ourselves what is next in the wake of a boom in the telehealth field?
1. When is telemedicine an appropriate alternative to in-person appointments?
In a post-pandemic world, when can I provide care virtually that would match the quality of an in-person appointment? Some examples could include:
Rounding in ICUs and other highly contagious environments: In the hospital setting, this allows providers to conserve PPE and only expose themselves to potential infection when necessary. The Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute leveraged telemedicine for in-patient monitoring prior to the pandemic and increased their capacity to do so since the advent of COVID-19 in the United States. Overall, the virtual care through video consultation and monitoring has been extremely successful and has allowed for more multidisciplinary input on patient care.
Post-operative care: A 2018 University of Michigan study found that, “The role of telemedicine in postoperative care…has demonstrated excellent clinical outcomes, enhanced patient satisfaction, increased accessibility along with reduced wait times, and cost savings to patients and health care systems.” The pandemic environment has fast tracked the adoption of this care.
2. Will telemedicine be an augmentation of my practice/hospital or will current providers (continue) seeing patients both in-person and virtually?
Some telehealth providers connect practices with a team dedicated to virtual care that can be available 24/7. Consider how much you want to expand your telehealth practice in the next few years as you decide how you want to structure your provider team. Hybrid teams can offer more flexibility and access for patients.
3. What feedback do I need to get before making my next move with telehealth?
Patients and providers have had to adopt new telehealth technology in an expedient manner. In some cases, there may have been little time for personalized discovery and iterative implementation. Feedback is critical to continuing to improve virtual healthcare; consider some of the following data points to better understand your telemedicine needs:
- Provider experience – are providers able to quickly navigate the telehealth platforms? What information do they need more readily accessible? Can they easily conference in another provider to the virtual visit, if needed?
- Patient experience – is the platform intuitive and easy to use? Can they self-schedule appointments?
- Health data – are we collecting all the data needed for the appointment? What other data could we be monitoring to better care for our patients?
Click here to see our other blog posts related to telehealth in the wake of COVID-19 discussing patient interaction and telehealth vendors considerations.
Cleveland Clinic ConsultQD. ‘A COVID-19 Crash Course in Inpatient Telemedicine — and Implications for Future Care.’ April 10, 2020. https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/a-covid-19-crash-course-in-inpatient-telemedicine-and-implications-for-future-care/
Luma Health. ‘COVID-19 Ushers in Patient-First Care Model.’ April 2020 https://www.lumahealth.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID19_DataReport_April2020_FINAL.pdf
Williams, Aaron M., Umar F. Bhatti, Hasan B. Alam, & Vahagn C. Nikolian. “The role of telemedicine in postoperative care.” mHealth [Online], 4.5 (2018): n. pag. Web. 9 Jun. 2020 http://mhealth.amegroups.com/article/view/19310/19390