Telehealth is a convenient feature that has been around for many years. It used to only be an option for patients with a long term doctor. Recently, with an ongoing pandemic, it has become essential. Now, telehealth services are available for patients who need to see a new doctor or require medical advice on a new matter. According to a survey conducted by Sage Growth Partners (SGP) and Black Book Market Research, 59% of people are more likely to use telemedicine now than in the past. Additionally, 36% are willing to switch physicians to one that provides telehealth medicine. 

Coronavirus has created a national crisis that has increased consumers’ interest in telehealth. What will happen to telehealth post-pandemic? There is a lot of speculation but the consensus is that telehealth services will stay long after the pandemic is behind us. 

Here are a list of reasons why telehealth is likely here to stay:

1. Telehealth companies are embracing technology

Telehealth services are in demand more than ever before. Today, most people have a smartphone. Pairing technology with medicine has many possibilities. Technology makes medical care easily accessible which is critical in peoples’ busy lives. Ease of use and quality will likely continue to improve. We may see better video quality and streaming services or perhaps even automation. It may allow doctors to use a telehealth app. Telehealth was initially rolled out to provide healthcare during the pandemic. Once the pandemic is over, people may not want to go back to the way healthcare was before. 

2. It is easier for doctors to provide telehealth services

Telemedicine provides virtual routine care and follow up appointments where an in-person appointment isn’t needed. It’s easier for patients because they can access telemedicine at home or work. Doctors can address less urgent matters virtually and still see patients for in-person exams as needed. Telehealth appointments work especially well for behavior health treatment. A new survey by Accenture found that behavior health experts can expand treatment to 53 million Americans with the help of telemedicine. This expansion can help doctors treat more patients who currently do not receive behavior health treatment.

3. Doctors’ pay for telehealth services is now more comparable 

Before coronavirus, doctors were not paid the same amount for telehealth appointments as for in-person visits. This lowered doctors’ incentive to offer telehealth medicine. In April 2020, the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) rolled out a $200M coronavirus telehealth program to help healthcare providers treat patients virtually. These changes have turned telehealth into a reliable source of income for physicians. 

4. Medicare and Medicaid now offer telehealth services

Most medicare and medicaid patients are over the age of 65 and need medical attention often. Medicare and Medicaid now give patients the option to visit their primary care doctors virtually. Telehealth benefits for older and immunocompromised individuals are especially apparent. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that approximately 10.1 million beneficiaries used telehealth services between mid-March and early-July. This is up from 13,000 weekly. While medicare previously only covered telehealth in rural areas, now it expands virtual care access to patients in any physical location. 

5. Patients find telehealth services useful

Most people agree with doctors that telehealth should not replace in person doctor visits. However, many patients find telehealth services to be safe and convenient, especially in the era of coronavirus. Some non-urgent medical conditions, such as a mild rash, can be quickly examined virtually and saves patients the hassle of scheduling and going into the doctor’s office. Patients likely will not want to return to the old way of receiving healthcare post-pandemic.

Challenges and limitations

Determining which services are appropriate for telemedicine may be a challenge of continued telehealth. According to CNBC, additional challenges to the expanded use of telehealth services may include quality care control, overall patient acceptance and beneficiaries’ access to technology. Another consideration is that telehealth coverage can vary between state lines which could complicate the process. 

Summary

The use of telehealth is on the rise. During the pandemic in particular, telehealth allows doctors to protect patients and their care teams from coronavirus. Help from the government has made telehealth services more accessible. With treatment now available to a larger number of people, teleheath benefits outweigh the limitations. Telehealth will likely be here long term.

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