Telemedicine Expands During COVID-19
As COVID-19 concerns remain prevalent, many healthcare professionals are offering telemedicine services online and over-the-phone. This year, the telemedicine industry will grow by nearly 65 percent directly due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an analysis by Frost & Sullivan. Due to this rapid expansion, patients now have better access to on-demand, cost-effective care from the comfort of their own homes.
The Telehealth Boom
Telemedicine is an alternative way for physicians to provide care for patients and collaborate with other doctors via phone calls, live chat, or video chat. This technology has existed for years, but the recent surge in COVID cases provided the push many reluctant patients and providers needed to explore the concept. Earlier this summer, an increase in coronavirus cases forced hospitals to postpone all non-emergency and elective care appointments. For many, telemedicine was the only way to get the care they needed.
Sarah Kier, Vice President of Patient Access for Physician Group Practices at Emory Healthcare, explained that “There was essentially a three-week period of time where, unless you were a critical case that had to see a provider in-person for some kind of physical exam, which was less than 10 percent of our appointments, telemedicine was your pathway to get into our system.”
Patient and Physician-Preferred
Telehealth offers several benefits over face-to-face physician visits for both patients and providers. For patients, these include shorter wait times, flexible hours, and lower out-of-pocket costs. While patients can schedule same-day doctor’s appointments, physicians can monitor many patients at once while maintaining proper social distancing to keep their clients safe. Inpatient facilities, like hospitals, can also utilize telehealth to visually monitor patients in real-time without diminishing the facility’s supply of personal protective equipment.
“It has just been so remarkable how much our providers have leaned into this very quickly and how much our patients have grown to appreciate and then to rely on this channel of care,” said Kier. “It really has been one of the most rapidly evolving landscapes I’ve ever seen in my almost 20 years of healthcare experience.”
In a blog post from doctors.com, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions Andy Kennedy claims that 83% of telehealth users will continue to seek telemedical services in place of face-to-face appointments, even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Telemedicine has grown into a vital service in recent months, especially for those with chronic illness or in at-risk populations. The elderly, lower-income families, and individuals with chronic illnesses all stand to benefit from telehealth.
It is estimated that one in four Americans suffers from more than one chronic illness that lasts longer than one year and requires continuing medical attention. This number increases to three out of four Americans when the senior population, age 65 and up, is considered. Telehealth may be the way forward for these at-risk groups, even after the coronavirus pandemic dies down.
During the coronavirus outbreak, older individuals and sufferers of chronic illnesses were urged to stay home to prevent possible infection. With telehealth services, these groups can get ongoing care without the stress of being in public.
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