How is coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting healthcare?
Healthcare providers are experiencing major challenges as the Coronavirus disease continues to put pressure on the healthcare system. Many patients are avoiding appointments and doctor’s offices in an effort to prevent a potential exposure to COVID-19 while others are flooding hospital emergency rooms without exhibiting symptoms. As a result, healthcare providers have had to adapt the way they provide care. They have turned to telemedicine software as an alternative method of engaging patients via secure video or instant messaging chats. Telemedicine software is helping increase provider capacity, as well as relieve stress on the healthcare system driven by COVID-19. Healthcare providers that invest in virtual care are able to better adapt to COVID-19 and have the operations in place to stay relevant in the future as the technology is more widely adopted.
5 Ways telemedicine helps healthcare providers and patients adapt to COVID-19.
1. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to safely continue providing healthcare at a distance.
Coronavirus has created a ripple effect that has not only affected major hospitals, but has influenced family practices, mental health clinics, and a variety of healthcare businesses. Governments are pushing for social distancing, prohibiting large gatherings of people, and implementing city lockdowns that limit people from leaving their homes. In-person healthcare has become near impossible to access.
As a result, patients are foregoing important treatment and healthcare businesses are unable to provide their services. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to screen, treat, and monitor their patients from a distance using digital tools like secure 1-1 or group video chats, instant messaging, appointment booking, and file sharing. This means that both healthcare providers and patients can continue to engage in appointments remotely without risk of exposure to COVID-19.
2. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to better accommodate client demand.
Despite the hesitancy of patients to visit doctor’s offices and hospitals, there continues to be a high-demand for healthcare services during this time. Healthcare providers can supplement their services with virtual care to easily avoid what would be an influx of appointment cancellations, no-shows, and reduction in overall in-person appointment volume.
Virtual care gives patients the convenience required to access their healthcare remotely and allows healthcare providers to continue to engage with their existing patients. The convenience and flexibility of virtual care reduces the likelihood of cancellations and can even help healthcare providers provide their services to more people as social distancing forces the public to seek healthcare online. This means that telemedicine can actually increase your practice’s ROI over time.
3. Virtual care can help contain coronavirus outbreaks.
Healthcare providers are doing their part to help slow the spread of coronavirus outbreaks and treat affected patients. Not only can virtual care enhance the care of patients that tested positive for COVID-19, it can also meet the care needs of the general public that are avoidant of healthcare centres during the outbreak. Virtual care is an essential tool for helping to contain outbreaks because it enables the following:
- Healthcare workers are able to remain healthy by providing care and screening for COVID-19 cases remotely. This means more professionals can remain on the front lines to continue to work to help contain COVID-19 spread and treat other unrelated illnesses.
- Patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 can continue to access their healthcare professionals through increased online touchpoints.
- Healthcare providers can use virtual care to streamline their tasks such as online booking, payment processing, and patient communication, so they can spend more time combating outbreaks.
4. Virtual care helps prevent hospital overcrowding.
Hospital overcrowding during a virus outbreak can be resolved through a combination of solutions, including specialized locations to test for COVID-19 and the implementation of remote screening and monitoring of COVID-19 patients by means of telemedicine and virtual care softwares.
Canada’s first positive case of COVID-19 saw the patient attend Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. According to Global News, “many doctors who have been fighting the virus in Toronto said they would like to see fewer patients attending hospitals” (source). If more virtual care tools were in the hands of more physicians, COVID-19 symptom screening could be done online before visiting a public hospital. Additionally, COVID-19 positive patients who are not in critical condition could be monitored by a physician as they recover in the comfort of their own home.
5. Telemedicine can help patients safely manage mental illness.
Despite the overwhelming media coverage surrounding the coronavirus, the previously present health concerns of patients have not dissipated. There is a global mental health crisis that needs attention and the fear and panic created by a pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of people across the world.
Mental healthcare providers can use virtual care to connect with their existing patients and new patients that are seeking resources, support, and treatment to better manage their mental health during times of uncertainty. Telehealth is part of the solution to solving the global mental health crisis and is the only way that psychological care can be administered during times of social distancing and city lockdowns.
Are you considering offering virtual care to enhance your healthcare services? Telemedicine is a worthy investment in the overall infrastructure of the healthcare system that pays off long-term. There are a variety of ways you can incorporate virtual care into your practice. Adding virtual care software to the operations of your practice can reduce overcrowding, improve access to your services, enable remote treatment, and streamline the delivery of healthcare services.