The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the way we think about everything—including healthcare. Social distancing and the wait for a vaccine have more patients and their healthcare providers looking for safe, HIPAA-compliant alternatives to in-office visits to stop the spread. And, while we’ve been talking about telehealth for over a decade, until recently 82% of consumers haven’t engaged with their healthcare providers online.
Just months and one pandemic later, everything is changing. The demand for telemedicine is reaching new levels. In fact, more patients and healthcare providers are electing to use telehealth as a preferred method.
Why? Being able to diagnose and interact face-to-face protects patients being seen for non-COVID-19 ailments protects them from exposure to patients with the virus. Adoption rates are also being fueled by healthcare workers looking to protect themselves while treating patients who have the most unpredictable virus in modern history.
According to Fast Company, COVID-19 is driving millions to try telemedicine for the first time.
These numbers are signficant after years of talking about digital transformation and bringing the patient experience online. Telehealth providers are seeing soaring demand levels, including MDLive, The Department of Health and Human Services, Doxy, and Doctor on Demand.
Racing to address healthcare concerns and see more patients, some healthcare providers are using Facetime or Skype as a right-now alternative while others are even using Zoom which has temporary approval for treatment use—albeit not without its security complications.
In this blog we’re examining the shift to virtual healthcare and why this new norm isn’t going anywhere once our communities reach the other side of this healthcare crisis.
Telehealth isn’t a passing phase.
We keep talking about the “new normal”. You know, Zoom yoga and Passover seders, MarcoPolo, virtual game nights, and going three wears before washing those yoga pants your manager can’t see on video conference calls. And while a lot of these changes may not be permanent, telemedicine isn’t going anywhere.
1. Consumer demands have already changed—dramatically.
Virtual medicine hasn’t just seen a huge spike in use, patient satisfaction levels are high. According to Fast Company, telehealth providers across platforms are scoring high on patient experience. There are a few undeniable forces behind this beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. First, millennials were surpassed by the younger Generation Z as the most represented global population. Gen Z makes up more than 32% of the global population and millennials rank a close second at 31%.
Both demographics had their coming of age after the global economy went on-demand with ready access to quick payments, ride sharing and food delivery services. They research and vet their peer-reviewed options online. And they want everything to be right in their hands when they want it—including their healthcare decisions.
2. Healthcare provider preference is quickly evolving.
Doctors and other healthcare workers are already starting to prefer telemedicine because it empowers them to spend more time with their patients. With virtual visits, healthcare providers can frequently check in on patients with more severe ailments and even pick up on nuances they wouldn’t have in-office by seeing them in their normal living environment on video. Healthcare providers can quickly assess whether a patient has pets that may be worsening their medical condition, or even if they have safe housing, ample food and social support needed for home care.
It’s all right there—live, face-to-face and uninterrupted.
Comprehensive care can also be more thorough via telehealth applications. In an office setting, it’s almost impossible to bring a primary care physician and a specialist to the patient in one exam room. But, with telehealth patients and their healthcare professionals can coordinate care fast and in real time.
That also makes telehealth more profitable because it can alleviate some of the medical office overhead.
3. Insurance companies are next.
Why? Insurance providers will see a drop in total-cost-of-care costs—providing an alternative to ER visits and empowering patients to access care sooner before symptoms become more problematic.
Telemedicine is a must now—and later.
In addition to demographic drivers and changing consumer expectations, doctors and scientists predict we are still 12-18 months out from a COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, global communities will be working with high-risk populations until a vaccine is developed or enough of the population has built immunity to minimize the waves of cases.
That means patients will continue to leverage telemedicine whenever possible to protect their health and their family’s. And, when patients discover and acclimate to the convenience of healthcare professionals just a click away, many won’t want to return to the waiting rooms full of sick patients.
This catapult forward to virtual healthcare has been part of the digital transformation dialogue thought leaders have had for years. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from this healthcare crisis, it’s that digital transformation isn’t just something that starts in the C-suite. It begins with disruption that sparks smarter ways to work, live and stay healthy.
Reinvent your patient experience.
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Our collaboration and security experts are fluent in HIPAA compliance and the challenges healthcare providers are facing every day. We can help you navigate the solutions to find the most secure and supportive technologies for your patient experience—avoiding temporary measures that can put their privacy or your practice at risk.