Why Telehealth is a Win for Providers
The rise of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic came out of absolute necessity, and with that rise came rapid advances in how, where, how often and whether telehealth is used to deliver healthcare. In the short few years since the pandemic, it has become ubiquitous and is now in high demand by patients, who have found many benefits to its adoption.
But what about providers? Like any new development in healthcare technology or healthcare delivery, there exists a learning curve and there are changes to adapt to. And like any other change in healthcare, there are pros and cons to consider. In the big picture, however, telehealth offers many opportunities to improve care outcomes and care delivery. This in turn improves patient and provider satisfaction. Let’s examine the benefits of telehealth for providers.
The evolution of telehealth
Telehealth has changed over time in part because, even just a few short years ago, technology was in a much different state than it is today. In healthcare alone, we have seen advancements in remote patient monitoring and Bluetooth capabilities, wearables, interactive tools and much more.
Initially, physicians were somewhat reluctant to practice telemedicine because of the steep adoption curve and how difficult it was to not be in the same room as a patient to administer care, evaluate symptoms and communicate effectively.
The power of tools like high-resolution webcams, strengthened internet connectivity and increasingly polished telehealth apps have all helped solve for this issue, and in turn, have increased physician adoption. Recently, the American Medical Association reported that 75% of physicians they polled felt that telehealth allowed them to offer quality care to their patients, and 68% would like to increase its use in their practices.
The growth of telehealth at home
For those delivering advanced healthcare at home, the adoption of telehealth is not optional. Instead, it serves as a core part of the model. Remote patient monitoring tools like digital stethoscopes, tablets and Bluetooth-enabled biometric screening devices are just a few of the pieces patients can receive at the beginning of their care-at-home journey.
Although healthcare at home is not completely virtual, the telehealth component and its corresponding tools allow for seamless remote communication. This contributes to continuity of care within the setting a patient is most comfortable with— their home. It also helps providers overcome one of the biggest early obstacles to offering care outside the traditional hospital walls, which is the simple logistics of bringing patients and providers who are separated by physical distance together.
Telehealth is a game changer for providers
One core reason telehealth lends itself to providers is for virtual rounding. Doctors are able to treat and visit patients more efficiently thanks to the ease with which they can see them: through a screen rather than getting to them on foot. This increased efficiency in care often affords more time for conversation between doctors and patients, increasing patient satisfaction and the opportunity for improved care outcomes.
Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from this phenomenon, either. Increasingly, physician burnout is a concern for healthcare organizations. In one survey, more than half of physicians noted feeling pressured for time when examining or following up with patients, and that time pressure contributes to levels of physician burnout. Telehealth is one solution to decreasing that pressure.
Telehealth also helps to solve for another core challenge in healthcare, one that is a direct result of physician burnout: physician shortages. The Association of American Medical Colleges is predicting large shortages of both primary care and specialty physicians through 2034, a challenge which especially affects patients who live in rural areas.
Undoubtably, this only adds to the cycle of physician burnout— the more physicians who leave the profession, the greater the strain on the remaining care providers. With virtual care delivery available as one option in a clinician’s toolkit, it’s easier to reach more patients across larger distances, despite a decrease in provider availability.
Telehealth and its impacts on providers in the future
Of course, there are ideal use cases for telehealth, and it doesn’t prove right for every situation. However, it is important to remember the value of having a tool that better connects patients with their doctors, enables stronger care outcomes, and allows clinicians to treat a higher number of patients than they normally would be able to in the traditional setting. These benefits far outweigh the costs of adoption.
It is also important to note that although the use of telehealth may ebb and flow, patient satisfaction of telehealth visits is exceptionally high. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that more than 37% of patients used telehealth over the past 12 months, and as many as 86% of patients report satisfaction with this approach.
Much about telehealth still remains to be addressed by CMS and the regulatory complexity of virtual care will likely remain the same. We may see an ebb and flow in how the service is leveraged, but the state of telehealth is already nothing like it was prior to 2020.
What remains to be seen is the evolutionary path it will take and the continued benefits it will provide across the healthcare continuum. With all that in mind, telehealth will continue to be a pivotal piece of healthcare delivery going forward, especially in the context of care-at-home models. With the rapid growth of this approach to care, telehealth and how providers deliver care to patients remotely is positioned to continue to evolve in step with it.