Before the 2020 pandemic, more than 90% of clinicians performed less than five telemedicine consultations a week. Once the pandemic struck, almost two-thirds were doing more than ten a week, and almost a third reported more than twenty a week!
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the obvious benefits of telehealth brought many practices within its fold. Patients were served and saved, and clinics survived the period of low physical footfalls. But this growth isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. In fact, these trends show a rising graph and expansion into new areas. Therefore, as a healthcare provider, you need to be aware of what the future holds.
Doctors of almost all specialties provided online therapy during the pandemic when patients were fearful of leaving their homes. While 84% felt telehealth services were useful to manage chronic disease, many used it for acute care too.
Moving forward, surgical branches aiming to reduce the time spent by patients in the hospital will use remote consultations for pre-operative consultations and workup. After surgery, telemedicine can reduce patient travel, cost, and time, without compromising outcomes. As we become more committed to reducing healthcare costs, telemedicine will become more valuable.
As we move into 2021, telemedicine may become the standard for preventative care or post-hospitalization/ED visit care. Intensivists can guide pre-hospital care by paramedical and ambulance staff, ensuring better outcomes for the acutely sick.
Telemedicine is a “must-have” service for any clinic now. Patients will look for it on practices’ patient portals and will choose doctors based on its availability.
Most hospitals and large practices provide telehealth services. Moreover, the smaller practices that are holding out may find themselves losing their patients and revenue.
Direct-to-consumer services are on the horizon. Now, patients will be able to consult a doctor they’ve never met before.
In time to come, patients may be able to search for a doctor online at a time of acute need and have an immediate consultation. This will become possible once states lift registration restrictions and allow doctors to consult new patients remotely.
Instead of the current practice of sending a patient to a specialist, doctors could arrange a telemedicine consultation from their own clinic. They can even arrange it in the same visit, increasing patient convenience and keeping them in the practice.
Therapy where privacy is important could soon shift online. Patients need never be seen at an addiction-treatment center.
Some issues that currently act as a bottleneck might be resolved in 2021.
State restrictions may be removed for good. This will allow doctors and patients unrestricted access across the country.
The restriction on seeing new patients remotely may go. Practices will be able to acquire new patients by providing quality telemedicine services.
The rapport-building of an in-person consultation is valuable, but learning a good “website manner” will help. Training in these matters could soon become part of the medical school curriculum.
Equitable reimbursement for telemedicine will be more widespread.
New CPT codes have already been introduced, covering remote consultations, remote patient monitoring (RPM), training patients in using RPM, screening utilizing augmented intelligence, and inter professional communication to arrange the transfer of care. So, now the clinics will be able to monetize their expertise in remote care.
Clinicians feel telemedicine would be much better if patients owned and used remote sensors to help the process. Some are already available:
More and better devices to provide objective data will arrive. These devices will report directly into a clinic’s patient portal or EHR. Such technology-driven remote patient monitoring will alert clinicians to adverse situations and improve outcomes.
Currently, patients have to wait weeks to months for appointments, miss work or school and expend time and effort for going to their doctor.
The traditional model of practice seems unable to fix this. However, digital medicine offers convenience, cost savings, and equivalent outcomes when used skillfully.
Patients in future will want more of the advantages of telemedicine. Therefore, installing the apparatus for telemedicine, and mastering the skills needed, may not be optional much longer.
The use of telemedicine by both providers and patients accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this growth is going to continue in the coming years as well. And with the increase in the use of telehealth services, a lot of technological and regulatory improvements will occur in 2021 and beyond.
These improvements will be beneficial for both the healthcare providers as well as the patients. So, if your practice is yet to reap the benefits of remote consultation, this is the right time to dive in.
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