Why Telehealth is the New Normal and How to Get Started
Every industry has been forced to adapt to a new normal as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect millions of people worldwide. The medical industry has faced some of the most drastic changes. Still, in attempting to establish a new normal, medical providers found a solution that may well continue after the pandemic. Telehealth or telemedicine was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the system’s success has shown that telehealth may be useful even after the pandemic. Telehealth is a relatively simple system that provides convenience and safety for both patients and providers. Getting started with telehealth is also simple as many different platforms have popped up so providers can choose the best system for them and their patients.
What Is Telehealth
Telehealth is a general term that describes seeing or talking with a health professional over a video or phone call. Just how millions of workers are telecommuting or working from home, health professionals can still conduct visits that don’t require a physical exam using telecommunication services. It may sound like telehealth could be conducted using any video or voice service, but security and privacy concerns, along with HIPAA compliance, means that specialized telehealth services are the preferred option. Some medical offices used common services like Zoom for telehealth, but most have switched to apps or services dedicated to medical use. Medical providers will generally tell their patients which telehealth service they use, but providers should be open to alternative options if a patient is uncomfortable with the chosen service.
Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth was created out of necessity to see patients safely, but the widespread adoption of the practice highlighted problems within the existing medical industry. Many patients take long car rides or spend hours on public transit to make it to their doctor appointments. When the appointment is talk therapy or discussing test results, that journey is often unnecessary. Telehealth offers a solution where patients aren’t forced to make long treks to receive care, which could open the door to more patients receiving the care they could not access otherwise. This convenience is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic as 90% of practices have limited in-person appointments, and 97% of patients have canceled in-person appointments over safety concerns.
A variety of medical fields can use telehealth to great success. Fields ranging from talk therapy to outpatient physical therapy can use telemedicine to continue treating patients remotely. Talk therapy and appointments to discuss test results translate well to video or voice calls. Outpatient physical therapy sessions can be done remotely through a video call where the provider can see the patient and demonstrate at-home exercises to continue treatment.
Providers also benefit, especially during a global health crisis. Providers do not have to clean or prep patient rooms after each patient with telehealth. Instead of using copious amounts of cleaning supplies and using valuable session time to clean the environment, patients and providers can talk from safe locations with no prep time or fear of transmitting disease in-person.
Getting Started With Telehealth
Very few providers were versed in telehealth before the pandemic, but most providers will be on board by the end. Choosing your telehealth platform or service should be guided by your needs and your patient’s needs. Check with each insurance provider you accept to see if they have special requirements for telehealth. Thankfully, many insurance companies have come around on telemedicine, and most major plans now cover virtual appointments in light of the current pandemic. Also, check state or local laws regarding telehealth. Even though telehealth is legal in all 50 states, each state has different policies and requirements that apply on top of insurance company requirements. The red tape behind setting up telehealth is the hard part as the actual apps or systems are generally straightforward.
Look for a telehealth platform that gives your patients a unique login either through email or text or an app. Some platforms require the provider to send a link to the patient for each appointment to maintain security and simplicity, so patient’s only need to click through one screen to be connected. Screen sharing, texting options, and prescription requests are also nice for patients, but not essential features. As telehealth becomes the accepted norm, more platforms and opportunities will arise so providers can find a service that works for them and their patients. Telehealth is a recent invention in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis, but telemedicine’s benefits have proven so substantial that the practice is likely to continue after the pandemic. Both patients and providers benefit from telehealth. Getting started with telehealth requires admin research to ensure you are practicing within local laws. Still, once your system is up and running, you and patients can enjoy telehealth’s convenience.