The COVID-19 pandemic changed so much for people living around the world. In the United States, shutdowns, mask mandates, and new CDC interactions changed how Americans interacted with each other, entertained themselves, shopped, and went to the doctor. These actions closed businesses, created new industries, and helped to shape the future. At the time of this writing, it is unclear how permanent some of these changes will be going forward.
Telemedicine was already a trend within the medical community long before COVID-19. Urgent care centers, hospitals, and private medical practices already launched some telemedicine services as part of their conventional offerings, often to meet the needs of their existing patients. However, the vast majority of providers did not have telemedicine platforms that they currently utilized to work with patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the rate of adoption of telemedicine in the majority of medical practice. If providers and administrators have not yet implemented telemedicine services, the pandemic gave them serious reasons to consider it or add it to their future strategic plans. In this article, we discuss how telemedicine went mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic and how we anticipate telemedicine will continue to be a major part of the medical community decades after the pandemic is over.
Patients Already Wanted Telemedicine Services
Before the pandemic, patients already sought out telemedicine services because it was more convenient for them, better fit into their schedule, and could help them access a doctor sooner than they would be able to ordinarily with in-person office appointments. In some cases, patients might have looked for a provider that could offer telehealth appointments over other providers. For example, maybe a patient would have regular, in-office appointments with a primary care doctor but make an appointment with a telehealth provider if they needed antibiotics or a refill of a prescription.
In this way, the demand for telemedicine already existed before the pandemic started. Providers that already had telemedicine services benefited because the transition to a more virtual environment was more seamless. They already had the systems, training, and experience in place to provide telemedicine services without having to do anything different in the process to prepare for it.
Pain Points of Adoption
Adding telemedicine services to your practice requires work. Specifically, it requires the implementation and staff training for specific technology programs that will be used for telemedicine service administration. Before the pandemic, some practices might have thought that the pain points associated with the initial adoption of telemedicine services weren’t worth it, so they put it off until a later date. The pandemic forced many of these practices to quickly adopt telemedicine platforms and integrate them forcefully within their practices.
First, telemedicine technology solutions need to be purchased, developed, and customized to meet a practice’s needs. This isn’t an instantaneous process, but rather one that requires a lot of input from stakeholders to complete. Developers will need to know how you plan to use the platform, what state-specific rules apply to your practice, and other information about how your patients will access it. Then it will take time to create a solution and implement it.
Next, your staff members will need training on how to use the systems with time to practice scheduling and managing appointments with the systems. Once staff members understand it, patients will need to learn how to use the system, too. This can be difficult for some patients to learn, especially if they need to figure out how to access the platform and they lack technology proficiencies. For example, some seniors may not even have a computer at home to use for telehealth appointments.
Once these pain points are resolved over time, telemedicine services can be much easier and faster than many people would otherwise expect. However, it does take some time and effort to get to this point. As with any new technology system or procedure, this will not happen on the first day. Fortunately, it should not be that difficult of a process in the end.
Patient Acceptance and Preference
As patients learn about telehealth and it becomes something that they easily know how to use, many patients not only accept but prefer telemedicine services. There is a lot of convenience that comes from telemedicine and it also allows patients to see doctors and specialists outside of their geographical range. It can also make it possible to get care when offices are closed. For instance, if a patient needs a prescription to antibiotics outside of traditional office hours, they can use a telemedicine service with doctors in a different time zone or later working hours to get the medication they need.
Telemedicine will continue to be important after COVID-19. At KitelyTech, we can ensure that you have the telemedicine software solutions you need to offer top notch services. Call (312) 254-8248 for a consultation.