The way we deliver services across industries has changed extensively post-pandemic. Even before social distancing norms were facilitated, industries have been experimenting with remote modes of work across many fields. However, the impact of coronavirus on the lives of people forced the healthcare industry to think hard to accept telehealth as a new-age delivery model that can provide safe patient care with aid of technology-enabled tools.
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What is telehealth?
Telehealth is a mode of patient care delivery that uses digital communication and remote patient monitoring tools to facilitate health-related check-ups or consultations with clinicians or nurse practitioners. Telehealth systems comprise all the tools and personnel related to the service or program including the intranet, cloud platform, virtual platform, and remote digital devices to monitor patients and telehealth care providers who interact with patients. Virtual video consultations, RPM, and electronic transmission of patient health information are examples of telehealth systems.
Several benefits of telehealth should be considered by hospitals and clinics to gain and help patients with uninterrupted patient care even in situations like the recent pandemic. Let us examine a few of the telehealth services benefits that hold prominence:
1.Reduce rising healthcare costs
When patient care is shifted to home-based care and facilitated via telehealth remotely, the number of patients that need to be attended to in a hospital or clinical setting is reduced visibly. Similar care provided in a hospital will have extra overhead costs in comparison to home-based care for patients.
The government spends a lot of money on healthcare and there are many aspects like medical research, where there cannot be any cost curtailment. This is the reason all other viable options that work in favor of better patient outcomes and help in reducing costs should be explored and improved. Telehealth is no longer a medium to provide care just to underprivileged sections of society where healthcare facilities cannot be opened for various reasons. It is now a delivery model and a pillar of success for those healthcare facilities that pioneered and adopted this model. With improved technology telehealth services should be used to reduce the cost and service all those patients who cannot make it to a hospital.
2. Increase patient engagement
Telehealth nurses promote health maintenance through patient education. When patients are involved in the process of checking their health data on the monitoring devices, they are motivated to improve or maintain good health. This small step in turn translates to fewer episodes of repeat hospitalization and thereby increasing patient engagement and reducing costs. It also enhances the experience for the patients.
A patient who has to keep up with an appointment has to cross the barriers of time and distance through a sea of traffic. It can be frustrating especially for convalescing patients and seniors who can use the commute time for relaxing or some other productive activity. Likewise, no-shows are a loss of time and money for the healthcare provider who was waiting for the patient and did not allow that time for the next person in line.
Telehealth reduces these hindrances and helps a patient connect to their healthcare practitioner virtually, discuss their health situation, and progress with them without moving out of their homes. It is a matter of convenience for both parties and a win-win situation to use virtual platforms to connect for health-related aspects.
4. Improved patient adherence
Telehealth nurses can closely monitor their patient’s health and detect any changes in their vital data. Early detection and timely intervention have proven to help connect the case to specialists if there is a requirement. When otherwise seemingly normal patients suffer health issues like cardiac arrests the first few hours are very critical. However, with consistent monitoring in telehealth, at-risk patients and their caregivers are alerted as soon as there is a change in the situation. These reasons translate to patient adherence and improved outcomes.
Policymakers, healthcare industry stakeholders like doctors, and the management of hospitals agree that patient care is of paramount importance. The scope of telehealth is huge and many patients are not aware of the benefits and ease of patient care. So it is the responsibility of the facility to effectively communicate its merits to the patient and take their consent before signing them on to a telehealth program.