The first half of the year has presented a new set of obstacles for the healthcare community, above and beyond the inefficiencies that have plagued it for years. The pandemic not only placed increased strain on providers to identify and treat infected patients, but to also limit the spread of the virus while doing their best to treat other patients.
Telehealth tools, including virtual visits and remote patient monitoring, have been present for years and have promised to introduce new efficiencies to healthcare delivery that could help address several of the ongoing challenges. Still, despite the potential benefits, adoption has been slower than expected, at least before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Now, it appears both patients and doctors are more open to using telehealth. Increased exposure to new tools has driven more positive perceptions and comfort levels among providers: 57% of providers have a more favorable perception of telehealth than they did before the pandemic, and 64% are more comfortable using the technologies. Similarly, more than three-quarters of patients are interested in telehealth, compared to just 11% who used telehealth last year.
Despite that, there are still challenges providers must address to ensure positive experiences and to help build their telehealth practices. Specifically, they need to look at the top factors that are driving patients’ willingness to explore telehealth options to ensure those factors don’t become obstacles.
As with most new technologies, telehealth solutions have to be easy for patients. If patients have trouble using applications or devices, there’s a good chance their perceptions will be negatively impacted. On the other hand, if they are able to connect quickly and easily with their doctors and don’t have to go through repetitive, time consuming steps, they may be more willing to continue using telehealth and promoting its benefits to others.
Communication About Services –
The easiest way to get patients to try telehealth is to make sure they are aware it is an available option. Using patients’ preferred communication channels – email, text, newsletter, website, voice message – letting patients know telehealth options are available is the first step in increasing adoption. Similarly, once patients express interest or schedule appointments, making sure they have specific details on how to set up applications and log in for their visits can go a long way in driving satisfaction.
Online Scheduling –
It only makes sense that, if patients are willing to try telehealth, they would also like scheduling to be easy. Online scheduling not only lets patients set appointments whenever they are ready but takes that administrative burden off providers’ staff.
Faster Access to Care –
Patients expect telehealth will give them faster access to care. The good news is, just as virtual visits allow patients to receive consultations anywhere, physicians, too, have greater flexibility in delivering services from a variety of locations. That means providers may be able to leverage more physicians, including increasing shifts for those who have seen reductions during the pandemic. As the pandemic continues, this could also allow providers to use physicians who have been quarantined themselves to treat patients remotely.
There are factors that are driving increased interest in telehealth services, and while some patients will likely go back to in-person visits when they can, positive experiences can help continue the momentum the connected health industry is seeing.
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