Telehealth’s moment has arrived. Providers should pursue a self-assessment to see how they compare to the best and most affordable, value-driven models in the market. They should make sure that their options are easy to use and seamless for patients to interface with — sometimes that can be as simple as being able to connect through a smartphone. And there’s a degree of variability in telehealth needs by specialty, in addition to the different patient attitudes and expectations described above.
You need to think through how telehealth is used across its different use cases. Patients are concerned about the ER environment now, so they want to use telehealth as a way to triage over the phone, with the problem investigated virtually up front — it’s cementing their comfort, not replacing an in-person visit. However, for recurring appointments and follow-ups, in-person visits are effectively replaced. The implications will also change the presence of workers in your offices and care centers, as some will be needed for in-person care and others will be interfacing with patients who are still off-site.
As mentioned earlier in this report, educating your patients is also vital. They need to know about the options and what is suitable for each specialty, and when. These efforts will enable good behaviors during the pandemic, like reducing the number of people in doctors’ offices and hospitals at one time and making every minute count, through something as basic as virtual waiting rooms.
After the pandemic (and during), telehealth presents greater opportunities for practitioners to drive more compliance with treatment plans, gaining an overall net benefit in treatment efficacy and reducing potential costs of care along the way.
Patient trust forged in health care provider relationships and delivery center reputations presents providers with an opportunity to shape how health care should be performed in a post-COVID-19 era.
In the short term, providers have the ability to make patients feel safer and cater to their needs through telehealth and fulfill their requirements around in-person visits to regain much-needed revenue from non-urgent care.
In the longer term, patients will be more focused on the potential risks and tradeoffs as much as the benefits from their care, and forward-thinking providers can align their delivery and payment models around those changing dynamics.
The pandemic has perhaps been the most disruptive event to our health care system in our lifetimes, but through trust, technology and education, you can turn challenges into advantages — for you and your patients.