As per Statista, 52 percent of the healthcare professionals think that telemedicine innovation can transform the healthcare industry in the coming years. The telehealth usage has stabilized at 38X level which is higher before the pandemic, a study by McKinsey concluded.
Telehealth innovation offers a range of benefits such as comfort, protection from infection, and work-life balance for the providers. This article highlights why telehealth innovation is essential in 2022. Let’s understand the crux of telehealth before moving to it’s importance.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is an application that allows physicians to diagnose without on-site clinic visit. Healthcare check-up is carried out online through mobile, computer, or tablet. A patient has the liberty to talk over the phone, chat, or video call with the doctor. Messaging and calling features are secure and all data is safeguarded during consultations.
Physicians use remote patient monitoring through telehealth to check on the patient. For instance, vitals such as heart rate or sleep time are recorded by medical devices, so doctors can check for progress or alerts.
A patient is exposed to a wide range of care options via telehealth. Some of these are online counseling, e-prescriptions, follow-ups after surgeries, skin issues, and urgent care such as stomach aches or coughs.
Why Is Telehealth Innovation Important?
Here are 6 reasons why telehealth innovation is essential in 2022.
1. Convenience and Comfort
According to data from YouGov, in April 2020, 74 percent of people said that they were comfortable with the online care instead of in-person visits. The data further stated that people are comfortable with sharing medical information digitally, therefore they may continue to use telehealth in the post pandemic period too.
Telehealth eliminates the need for people to wait for an in-person visit. Hence, in case of severe situations, patients can immediately book a slot and seek consultation from the healthcare provider.
The healthcare providers can enjoy the luxury of consulting patients from the comfort of their clinics or hospitals, only to avoid excess burnouts. As per a research conducted by the College of Health and Human Services (George Mason University) stated that primary care physicians complained of burnouts twice as that of the other healthcare professionals.
Grady, an assistant professional at the University said, “We were looking at burnout in the context of transformation and change going on in physician practices. And look at where we are with COVID-19 and it’s even more significant,” she said. “There is an uncertain future ahead of us and there is more potential for additional levels of burnout and change as a result of the pandemic and what it has done to shake US healthcare to its very core.”
Telehealth services provides the liberty to both patients and providers to schedule virtual care appointments as per their convenience, hence this eases management of personal and professional commitments.
2. Offers Protection to Patients and Healthcare Professionals
Karen Donelan, a scientist at the Health Policy Research Center, Massachusetts said, “The risk of infection and surging demands on the healthcare system have made telehealth a safe and necessary tool.” Features offered by the telehealth applications such as e-prescriptions, counseling, remote monitoring, and primary care is driving the usage of the telehealth innovation.
According to a report published by Deloitte, infection control and convenience are the key reasons why patients opted for telehealth care. Virtual care prevents the spread of communicable diseases such as flu, chicken pox, or even the coronavirus. Therefore, safeguarding the lives and health of doctors and nurses.
3. Managing Chronic Conditions
As per CDC, six out of ten Americans live with one chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. These chronic conditions are major drivers for deaths and healthcare costs in America. Also, as per an article on Amwell, chronic diseases account for 75 percent of doctor visits and 80 percent of hospital admissions. These numbers are estimated to grow due to rising cases of chronic conditions in the United States.
In order to curb the inflammation of chronic conditions and to manage it better, CPSTF (Community Preventive Services Task Force) suggests telehealth interventions. As per CPSTF, telehealth intervention can improve clinical outcomes such as BP or sugar control; it can uplift medical adherence which includes self-management and outpatient follow-ups; and ameliorate dietary outcomes.
The telehealth components which are useful in managing chronic conditions are appointment reminders, goal settings, and providing health data to patients.
As per National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, hospital readmissions due to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) amounts to around $15 billion yearly in the USA Patients who schedule appointments for visit or follow-ups, end up in hospitals or emergency cares for acute inflammations. Therefore, costing money to the healthcare facilities.
Virtual appointments and care avoids hospital admissions for minor flare-ups and admits only during emergencies.
4. Managing Emergency Rooms
As per a report, emergency department visits that lead to hospital admissions was cited as 16.2 million in 2018, therefore resulting in crowded emergency rooms and long waiting hours. This augmented the stress levels of the healthcare staff and patients.
Usage of telehealth services to report diseases or health conditions brings down the rush in the emergency rooms, thus reducing stress levels too. Post-discharge consultation and follow-ups declines unnecessary admissions to the ER.
Telehealth innovation is used by hospitals to manage ER efficiently. For instance, UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center) utilizes telemedicine or telehealth platforms to aid small hospitals in treating ER patients; instead of transferring them to large facilities. 15 hospitals that used UMMC telehealth app accounted for 25 percent decrease in the hospital costs.
5. Healthcare Access in Senior Housing Communities
As per a survey, 37 percent of the US adults above the age of 65 years who were suffering from one or more chronic conditions were reported to cancel or postpone their appointments due to the pandemic. Telehealth innovation prevents unnecessary exposures to the coronavirus infection and averts worsening of chronic conditions due to Covid-19.
“Any expansion of telehealth services is a very good thing. “Especially during this time when we need folks to stay home, and in particular, to safeguard people over 65 as well as other high-risk individuals,” said Kari Olson, a technology and innovation officer for Front Porch, a senior living provider.
6. Support for Psychiatry and Cardiology
Telecardiology and telepsychiatry applications under telehealth includes rehab exercises, virtual visits, and nurse-aided consultations. Telepsychiatry is gaining momentum in the hospitals due to virtual visitation feature. Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, California which operates approximately 40 hospitals, conducted 90 percent mental health consulting virtually.
Dr. Andrew Freeman, a member of American College of Cardiology said that telehealth is like a blessing in a very awful disguise. Digital monitoring devices or wearable devices are signs of cardiology in telehealth. For instance, Apple 4 and 5 watches equipped with FDA approved application that can transmit ECG in real-time. Telehealth’s real-time monitoring feature guides professionals to manage and monitor their patients diagnosed with heart diseases better.
Importance of telehealth applications isn’t just limited to the above aspects. There are other factors that make telehealth unique and a handy tool to use. Every healthcare professional can think of expanding their services via telehealth apps in 2022 due to its ever growing benefits.