How Telehealth Can Make Healthcare More Accessible During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tashfeen Ekram, MD
During the past few years, telehealth has been increasingly on the rise. As of 2017, 76% of hospitals had telehealth systems in place, and more and more companies had begun partnering to develop innovative capabilities for virtual visits. But the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated this timeline — now more than ever, clinics need to be implementing telehealth solutions to keep patients healthy and clinics thriving during this unprecedented time.
Until now, patients primarily used telehealth in a way that was similar to urgent care — they needed a diagnosis as soon as possible and would consult with a doctor who wasn’t their primary care provider on short notice. In the wake of the coronavirus, telehealth is expanding rapidly and is now being used for all types of routine medical visits in various specialties, from dermatology to endocrinology.
Read on to learn more about the value of telehealth and the ways that it can help “flatten the curve” of the novel coronavirus.
Telehealth is expanding rapidly and is being used for all types of routine medical visits, including specialties such as dermatology and endocrinology.
Telehealth Solutions Provide Patients with Flexibility and Peace of Mind.
It’s clear that many patients are turning to telehealth as the most convenient and sensitive way to stay healthy during a tumultuous time when most in-person medical appointments are being cancelled. But even more valuable for patients is when the convenience of telehealth is paired with the familiarity of their own provider. Using telehealth services, from video calls to a secure chat environment, to connect with one’s own doctor goes much further to improving health outcomes. Patients are more likely to have better experiences when they can see someone with whom they are familiar and who has a basic understanding of their health history.
The best telehealth technology lowers the cost associated with individual visits, drives increased access to care, keeps patients regularly engaged with their own health, and, ultimately, improves health outcomes. Our new solution makes telehealth easier than ever. It can be integrated with a clinic’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) system to support bulk telehealth appointment conversion and ad-hoc video appointments. And, with just one click, patients can see their providers via their phones.
The meeting is initiated from the provider while a meeting link is sent to the patient as a text message, and no downloads are needed from the patient’s side. Once the meeting is completed, the room is deleted and the recording is exported and stored in the patient records. No logins, no apps, and no downloads required — and it’s all HIPAA-compliant. Learn more here. To help providers continue to deliver care during this outbreak, we are offering a free 90-day trial of Luma Health Telehealth to providers who sign up by April 30.
Providers Can Benefit from Telehealth, Too.
Telehealth positively impacts revenue because it limits cancellations while allowing physicians to see more patients. It also provides a new level of flexibility that has become increasingly necessary in the past month: even when patients aren’t able to make it to an in-person visit, providers can still deliver the care their patients need.
Given that many medical clinics are struggling to stay afloat due to COVID-caused closures, telehealth can be key in maintaining revenue flow. Reimbursable, HIPAA-compliant virtual visits help to keep provider schedules filled while reducing cancellations and appointment backlogs.
We know that healthcare practices are facing countless challenges due to the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, and we want to help. On April 16th, our Chief Medical Officer, Tashfeen Ekram, M.D., is hosting a webinar centered around the ways that clinics can leverage telehealth to continue serving patients amidst the spread of coronavirus — sign up here, and if there are any other ways we can help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Ultimately, a telehealth appointment is an excellent replacement for the alternative — no appointment at all. The key is to identify cost-effective ways for providers and patients to interact virtually and to identify clear scenarios for when to offer patients telehealth visits when an in-person visit is impossible or unnecessary. As COVID-19 continues to spread, technology can help ensure patients get the care they need and can simultaneously strengthen the patient-provider relationship. Patients are looking to their providers as a source of truth in a time full of confusion: being able to “see” them on a phone screen is reassuring.
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In a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of patients said that they would use a telehealth service — provided it was affordable and available — to be screened for COVID-19. Monitoring patients with COVID-19 symptoms remotely ensures that the patients can stay quarantined rather than coming to a medical facility, which could put other patients at risk. Telehealth also allows the provider full visibility into the patient’s condition in the event that it worsens.
One specific use case that shows the value of telehealth is that of rural patients: telehealth can help isolated, rural patients access the care they need without being forced to make a costly, time-consuming, and even dangerous journey to see their specialist. If a patient with COVID-19 symptoms lives in rural Iowa, for example, they may not have easy access to a provider that can help screen and monitor them. In this case, the patient could arrange a telehealth “visit” with a COVID-19 expert, who might be located in Chicago or another larger city. This again promotes increased access to care, as well as improved outcomes.
Telehealth is Here to Stay.
In the end, giving patients the ability to consult with their own physicians via telehealth makes their healthcare experience far more efficient and personalized. Telehealth keeps patients engaged in their own health throughout their journey and helps improve health literacy, which is essential as misinformation about coronavirus continues to proliferate.
Plus, it’s important to remember that telehealth is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to combating COVID-19. Other digital health solutions include mass-messaging patients via text, using online collaboration hubs to communicate between providers and more. Not only are we offering 90 complimentary days of our telehealth product, but we’re also allowing 90 days of no-cost access to our broadcast messaging services.
Learn more about both platforms here and be sure to sign up before the offer expires on April 30. We’re here to help providers stay connected to patients in a time of chaos and uncertainty, and we’d love to embark on this journey together.