The use of telehealth has surged dramatically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as people used their computers and phones to access remote healthcare services from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Tangible cost, convenience and accessibility benefits are expected to drive continued growth in the virtual care model for the foreseeable future.
Although telehealth has experienced consistent year-over-year growth for more than a decade, industry analysts estimate that only about 10 percent of Americans had ever used the services before 2020. However, usage has nearly tripled over the past 11 months, according to figures from the American Medical Association, and Frost & Sullivan analysts are forecasting sevenfold growth over the next five years.
The increase is clearly driven by the need to get medical attention without exposure to the coronavirus or other contagious diseases. But escalating use has also helped illuminate the many different ways the technology augments conventional healthcare services. These are just a few of the use cases that deliver benefits to a variety of patient populations:
Chronic disease management: Video consultations allow physicians to keep tabs on regular patients with chronic health problems such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Telehealth helps ensure that these patients are following their care plans and using medications properly. Studies indicate that regular and frequent evaluations of patients with chronic conditions are key to reducing hospital readmission rates — an essential objective at a time when healthcare resources are being stretched to the limit.
Remote triage: Remote evaluations lead to improved patient outcomes by cutting the time it takes to make decisions about whether someone should be transported to an emergency center for treatment. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that fewer heart attack patients die when results from remote testing procedures are transmitted to emergency personnel in the field or during transport.
Physical therapy: Patients requiring PT usually have functional limitations related to injuries, chronic impairments or post-surgery recovery. Reduced mobility and the increased risk of falls can make in-person appointments challenging. Telehealth reduces risk by allowing therapists to conduct live, one-one-one video appointments. As a bonus, therapists can educate family members and make specific suggestions about how to improve home safety.
At-home hospice care: Time is of the essence when terminally ill patients are in pain, and telehealth enables caregivers to quickly get in touch with medical professionals who can offer guidance. This is particularly helpful for patients in remote, rural areas. Although wound care and other in-person services remain essential to hospice care, remote providers can provide e-prescriptions, discuss pain management and provide important emotional support. The technology also allows caregivers or family members to involve other loved ones in the process through three-way, HIPAA-compliant video calls.
Behavioral health: A new study by Harvard Medical School and RAND Corporation concludes that the recent increase in telehealth use is largely driven by people seeking mental health services to cope with stress, fear, depression and social isolation. Telehealth allows patients to engage in safe, convenient and secure consultations with psychiatrists and therapists. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concludes there are “no statistically significant differences” in the effectiveness of video and in-person consultations.
Patient education: Providing patients with information about their condition, treatment plan and rehabilitation was among the first use cases for telehealth, and it remains one of the most important. Numerous studies show that education improves patient outcomes through increased compliance with treatment plans. In addition, telehealth education reduces costs for patients and improves workflows for providers by reducing the need for in-person appointments.
Cerium Networks has a well-developed portfolio of communications and collaboration solutions designed to help healthcare organizations conduct HIPAA-compliant, remote interactions with patients. Let us show you how to implement a telehealth network that can cut costs, improve workflows and enhance patient care.