Will our reliance on telehealth outlast COVID?

Beau Peters · March 31, 2021 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5215

When people feel comfortable seeing a doctor in-person again, telehealth visits may see a decrease

While the COVID-19 pandemic dictated so much of 2020, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. With three vaccines now approved for emergency use, more Americans are ready to “return to normal” as quickly as possible, whenever it’s deemed safe to do so.  

Will some things that were so crucial throughout COVID continue to be utilized in a post-pandemic world? One consideration is our reliance on telehealth. 

During the last week of March 2020, telehealth visits increased by 154%. Those visits have remained stable throughout the pandemic in order to keep patients and physicians safe. Telehealth also has many other benefits to consider, making it a viable option for patients who simply might feel more comfortable in their home, rather than a doctor’s office.  

But, when people feel comfortable visiting their doctor in-person again, will telehealth visits start to decrease? Or, is it sustainable enough to be a permanent fixture in our society? 

Why telehealth could have longevity

Telehealth has become popular for more than just the safety and security it has provided during uncertain times; there are many different benefits and positives to consider that provide the service with the power to stick around. Some of the biggest benefits of telehealth include:  

  • Straightforward access to care
  • Reliable care
  • More cost-effective visits
  • Accessibility for everyone
  • More personalized, empathetic care 

Telehealth is especially effective for seniors or those with mobility issues who might have trouble leaving their homes. They can speak to a physician without having to travel and risk injuring themselves or causing pain. 

Professionals in different areas of healthcare are utilizing telehealth to improve their patient care. For example, mental health professionals have also been taking advantage of remote visits with their patients. Being in the comfort of their own home and feeling “safe” can help those patients to open up more and show more vulnerability, which may help with their treatment.  

There are too many benefits to telehealth to simply ignore, including remote patient monitoring between appointments and access to your physician whenever you need it. 

The potential drawbacks

Even though there are plenty of advantages to telehealth, it’s also important to consider the potential “cons.” The drawbacks of a process are often what determine its longevity.  

One of the most notable risks in the telehealth industry is security: cybersecurity issues have impacted tech companies, retail businesses, and private industries for years. The healthcare industry certainly isn’t immune to them, but problems with security could lead to information getting leaked about your:

  • Personal identity
  • Insurance
  • Other payment information
  • Medical history
  • Family history

Protecting stored data is the responsibility of both the patient and the provider. Healthcare providers should make sure they are using secure portals and instructing employees on how to safely manage software and hardware, handle patient information, and destroy whatever information doesn’t need to be saved. 

In addition to cybersecurity risks, some are concerned about the reliability of telehealth. Even though it’s meant to offer accessibility, there are those who may not have a strong enough internet connection for it, while others simply may not trust meeting with a physician through a video chat or phone call. 

The good news about these potential drawbacks is that there is room for improvement on all of them, so the overall “look” of telehealth will keep evolving with technology. 

What does the future of telehealth look like?

No one knows how people are going to respond to gaining more freedoms again. But, we can make some predictions about the future of telehealth.  

First, the healthcare system, in general, continues to expand. Now that we have relied on telehealth for so long, it’s unlikely that it’s going to disappear into the background completely. So, if you have an interest in medicine and technology, you might consider a career in healthcare informatics. Those who work with technology in healthcare are those who will determine how successful it is in the future. By making things easier and safer for patients, they’re more likely to keep utilizing technology to connect with healthcare professionals. 

One reason telehealth could see a dip is a lack of physician involvement and even Congressional involvement. There are still so many unknowns when it comes to reimbursement plans for individuals who might be on Medicaid or Medicare, and unless more cash-strapped practices. 

Both physicians and patients might be eager to get back to “normal” as things start to open up. This could create an initial drop in telehealth numbers. But, it’s also estimated that younger individuals want this kind of service. They want to be able to connect with their doctors online, wherever they might be. As of now, it’s estimated that 25-30% of primary care patients can receive adequate care through telehealth alone. Unless that number continues to rise, it’s likely that people will start returning to in-person visits more frequently. 

But, it’s also unlikely that in-person visits will be as popular as they once were. Telehealth has caused a shift that can’t be ignored, and even though our reliance on it may be slipping, it’s something that is here to stay and may see a surge in popularity again as the next generation gets older.

(Image source: unsplash.com)

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Beau Peters

Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he's learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication.

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Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he's learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication.