While virtual healthcare saw a considerable increase during pandemic times, experts think the future of healthcare will have a more mixed approach.
During the pandemic, we saw a boom in telehealth treatments. Patients who felt uncomfortable leaving their homes during the lockdown or at higher risk of infection could have their medical consultations from the comfort of their own homes. According to a survey of physicians and consumers, the number of patients who had ever participated in a virtual healthcare visit increased from 8% to 22% last year, with 80% of physicians conducting at least one virtual healthcare visit in 2020.
Providing telehealthcare can be beneficial to many patients; however, there are still numerous cases when seeing patients in person is simply the better option. As the pandemic slows and telehealth becomes less of a necessity, healthcare is seeing a new trend on the rise: Hybrid counseling.
Hybrid counseling is the combination of traditional in-person and telehealthcare. Both modalities have their benefits; however, the pair can be the key to successful care when used together correctly.
The Rise of Virtual Healthcare
Telemedicine uses technology to enable remote healthcare (telehealth, allowing doctors to treat patients using a computer or smartphone.
While telehealth may no longer be as necessary as it was in the thick of the pandemic, virtual care still carries many benefits. Telehealth allows patients access to specialists who might not otherwise be available in their region (or price range). Virtual treatment also removes barriers – such as travel time, time off work, and childcare – which may impede people from seeking care when needed. It also provides possible medical care during holidays, weekends, and late nights. With more access to better care and a better ability to ensure follow-up consultations, the rise of telehealth truly has improved healthcare outcomes.
Some scenarios where telehealth is beneficial:
- There is a diagnosis of a common medical problem such as headache, sore throat, back pain, and digestive ailments.
- Questions about home treatments
- Post-treatment and follow-up for chronic care
- Refills of short-term medical prescriptions
Telehealthcare has its unique challenges. New technologies need to be implemented to make telehealthcare access possible in most cases. While healthcare professionals had to make quick adjustments in order to provide quality healthcare solutions to individuals in lockdown, their investments proved beneficial. Innovative technologies have allowed human connection, which is critical in quality treatment, to shine through. A physician’s ability to establish and regain a patient’s trust is central to healthcare – and to be able to do so without being together in the same room requires exceptional skill.
The success of telehealth has spurred the federal government to aid in infrastructure investment to ensure its accessibility. Goals include improved access to healthcare, prevention of disease and mortality rates, reduction of maternal mortality rates, and improved mental health in rural regions.
Telehealth also benefits the professionals in the healthcare industry. Remote working can be a timesaver and allow busy professionals more time with their families. It also can remove overhead expenses from previously pricey clinics, allowing professionals to provide better, more affordable care.
A Hybrid Approach
While telehealth has created positive changes, it doesn’t altogether remove the need for in-person care. For starters, many people simply want to see their healthcare provider in person. There are also situations in which face-to-face meetings are essential for a correct diagnosis or proper treatment.
Ideally, telehealth will be combined with in-person treatment in a hybrid counseling approach. Patients will appreciate the flexibility of telehealth for appropriate situations – such as simple diagnosis, follow-up care, and mental health treatment. However, they can also combine their treatment with in-person care when required, such as for more complex diagnosis, treatment requiring a physical presence, or in situations of preference for in-person care.
Virtual Healthcare Requires Software that Delivers Seamless Care
Healthcare providers need to ensure that the telehealth software they invest in can support customizations that allow users to seamlessly move between text, voice, and video conferencing. It’s also essential for healthcare providers to establish comprehensive, interconnected patient workflows in their telehealth software to support the combination of telehealth and in-office appointments. These include:
- Easy appointment scheduling using a computer or smartphone
- Digital patient registration and check-in with easy online forms to capture data that includes basic health history, medications, and insurance details
- Automated appointment reminders so patients can confirm, cancel, or reschedule appointments
- 2-way patient text communication between patients and the medical staff to quickly answer any questions
- Post-appointment follow-ups to manage aftercare and follow-up appointments
Hybrid Care Will Continue to Grow
With technology enabling high-quality virtual healthcare, it’s unlikely that the industry will revert to an all-in-person approach. However, hybrid care is healthcare’s likely future. Telehealth offers many benefits, but it isn’t a complete solution on its own. By combining telehealth and in-person treatment, healthcare providers can improve care quality, access, and affordability all at once. Now that’s a future of healthcare worth being a part of.