Telehealth services skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of telehealth visits increased 154 percent in the last week of March 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the value of telehealth during the pandemic was irrefutable, how should it continue now that vaccines are readily available and life is returning to normal?
Is Telehealth a More Profitable Solution for Healthcare Organizations?
Many health systems adapted to the needs of patients and providers during the pandemic, replacing face-to-face visits with telehealth appointments.
Telehealth generates more appointments due to patient convenience, which yields more revenue for doctors. No matter their geographic location, patients can connect with their provider and avoid inconveniences like finding transportation, acquiring childcare and taking time off from work.
How Can Telehealth Meet Future Needs of Physicians?
The demand for telehealth services will likely continue rising over the next few years as more healthcare organizations continue to adopt these services. There are several key ways that telehealth will meet the needs of physicians after the pandemic.
Continue Serving Patients Who Have Moved
According to a study conducted by University of Bristol researchers, nearly one-third of patients have a “deep” relationship with their primary care provider (PCP).
Telehealth services make it easy for patients to remain under the care of their trusted PCP who knows their health history and can provide a comprehensive level of care regardless of where they are in the world.
Telehealth can be conducted anywhere, meaning patients who relocate can continue seeing their PCP and other trusted specialists without disruption.
See Patients with Mobility and/or Mental Health Issues
Patients with mobility or mental health issues are less likely to visit their PCP compared to patients without these limitations. Telehealth services enable patients with all types of health restrictions the ability to continue seeing their PCP from the comfort and safety of their home.
Maintain a More Flexible Appointment Schedule
According to a 2018 survey by the Physicians Foundation, the average doctor sees about 20 patients a day. Nearly one-quarter of their day is used for nonclinical paperwork.
Physicians who offer telehealth services can see an additional four patients a day via video chats. Doctors who can maintain a flexible appointment schedule are often more productive and can help a higher number of patients manage their health.
How to Prepare Your Telehealth Strategy for the Post-Pandemic Future
The future of healthcare likely lies with a hybrid care approach that mixes telemedicine with in-person visits for services that cannot be completed online or for patients who prefer to see their doctors in person. Health organizations must consider ways to best prepare their telehealth strategy for a post-pandemic future.
Review and Revise Your Strategic Vision
Developing a successful long-term telehealth strategy begins with a clear and strategic vision. Consider where the organization’s telehealth services stand now and how they should be modified to continue meeting the needs of patients and providers.
The goal for all health organizations is to deliver high-value, patient-centered care, and the organization’s strategic vision should reflect this core mission.
Keep Up with Evolving Compliance Laws
With telehealth more prominent than ever before due to the coronavirus pandemic, compliance laws are rapidly evolving to protect patient information.
Healthcare organizations must be compliant with regulations including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or risk hefty fines. It’s important for providers to prioritize their IT and cybersecurity efforts to ensure their approach is focused on eliminating cyber threats and working toward compliance.
Providers can benefit from working with an unbiased third-party advisor on IT strategy assessments and cybersecurity assessments to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure and work to close any gaps.
Explore Options for Medicare Patients
Telehealth policies also affect healthcare at a federal level, with Medicare restrictions being lifted temporarily for a variety of services. Both new and existing patients are now covered for telehealth services which allow providers to deliver care to Medicare patients nationwide during the public health emergency (PHE).
In addition, many services have been added to Medicare’s telehealth services list, including group psychotherapy, ophthalmological services and ventilation assistance. Once the PHE is over, it will be up to Congress as to whether or not certain restrictions will be permanently eliminated.
Consider a Public or Private Cloud Deployment
Health organizations preparing their telehealth strategy for a post-pandemic future should consider a public or private cloud deployment.
Cloud-based telehealth solutions offer a variety of functionalities that enable providers to support patient-centered care models while reducing healthcare delivery costs. Integrated communication and collaboration tools allow providers and patients to share health data and digital medical imaging electronically.
Speak with the Telehealth Strategy Consultants at Hartman
The healthcare landscape will likely never return to what it once was pre-pandemic. However, this is likely for the best.
With the right telehealth strategy, healthcare organizations can leverage modern technology to ensure that patients receive the medical attention they need when they need it, and eliminate barriers to receiving care, which will ultimately improve overall population health.
To learn more about sustaining a telehealth strategy in the months and years following the pandemic, contact the telehealth strategy consultants at Hartman Executive Advisors today.