In 2017, a patient survey found that two-thirds of healthcare consumers would be willing to see a doctor over video—and one-fifth of patients would switch doctors in order to have that option.

Why? People find traditional medicine expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming.

Instead of driving to a clinic only to sit in a waiting room full of other people, patients want health support the minute they need it—without having to leave the house.

This is what has led to the growing demand for telehealth and virtual care delivery.

While patient convenience is the main driving factor, doctors and the government also benefit from this technology.

Embracing new technology is important, especially in times like we’re all experiencing right now. So today, we want to talk about telehealth, how it works, and how patients, doctors, and the government can all play their part in helping society get on board.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is reshaping healthcare.

In already challenging North American healthcare systems, this advancement is providing much-needed support in terms of care, access, and cost. And today, with most people unable to leave their homes in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, video consultations are particularly valuable.

Telehealth is the use of technology to access healthcare services remotely. It can involve technology you use at home (e.g., your mobile device) or that your doctor uses to communicate with other physicians or monitor your health from afar.

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With the help of video, audio and instant messaging, individuals can connect with a physician from anywhere.

There are many benefits of telehealth, including:

  • Improved quality of care
  • Reduction of healthcare costs
  • Stronger patient engagement

When somebody can see a doctor as often as they need to, they can better manage their health.

However, there is still some work to be done. To really see telehealth take off as it should, we need patients, physicians, and the government to adopt and promote these services.

What Physicians Can Do

The number of doctors who use telehealth for patient care doubled between 2016 and 2019—although the overall number is low, with only 28% reporting that they have adopted telehealth.

Still, that growth is impressive! With the adoption of telehealth, physicians can change patients’ perceptions of the idea with innovative solutions.

But most patients don’t even use telehealth or know whether their physicians offer it. Some say they don’t trust it, or they’re unsure whether their insurance will cover it.

In order to get patients on board with telehealth, physicians need to address these hesitations and work with insurers to educate their patients.

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If you’re a physician, view this as an opportunity. Through signage, info sessions, videos, blog posts, and brochures, you can alleviate concerns and help your patients understand telehealth’s value.

According to J.D. Power, positive recommendations from peers have led 65% of telehealth users to try out the service. This suggests that you could use patient testimonials to effectively promote your telehealth services.

Being a healthcare provider can be challenging even when there’s not a pandemic; telehealth brings welcome convenience that allows you to easily offer care and engage their patients. When patients are engaged in their health, it can lead to more transparency with healthcare professionals. This kind of trust between the patient and the provider is key for maintaining care and rapport.

What Patients Can Do

As we’ve highlighted, telehealth can make healthcare more affordable and accessible. But it’s not universally viewed that way.

Among patients, engagement is low—according to a 2019 survey from J.D. Power, only 9.6% of individuals tried using telehealth over a 12-month period.

Patients who are skeptical of telehealth—or even those who simply haven’t considered it—should take some time to educate themselves about the value of this healthcare option and what it could do for their overall wellbeing.

If that’s you, speak with your physician, as well as others who have used the service, to get some insight into your concerns. Getting others’ perspectives can help you better understand how telehealth really works and how it can help.

You can also make a point to try new apps and technologies you might not have considered.

Be open-minded. In fact, social distancing due to COVID-19 might be an opportunity to try out a video appointment for the first time.

What The Government Can Do

Healthcare professionals are eager to adopt telehealth; however, there have been challenges in getting government officials to use their resources to promote and facilitate its adoption.

For example, a lot of people think they need to see a physician in their office, but government officials can play a role in changing this perception by using the right messaging.

Organizations like the American Heart Association have educated policymakers on the benefits of using telehealth in cardiovascular care in an effort to get government officials on board.

Fortunately and unfortunately, COVID-19 has been applying some much-needed pressure on North American governments.

In Canada, the onset of the pandemic has been forcing governments to fast-track a system for more physicians to use telehealth to care for patients.

In the U.S., the USDA is providing grants to help with the upfront costs of telehealth technology, though infrastructure costs have decreased with affordable solutions like Zoom for Healthcare.

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This pandemic has made it clear that governments need to invest in innovative healthcare solutions and ensure that physicians are properly reimbursed for telehealth services.

Wrapping Up

Convenient, efficient, quality care is more important than ever before.

Telehealth is set to change healthcare for the better and remove many of the challenges that the industry currently faces.

As governments facilitate telehealth and physicians promote its benefits, patients will be able to receive even better care—as long as they’re open to change.

If you work in healthcare and are looking for better ways to connect with your patients, get in touch today about creating a mobile app, or take a closer look at our approach to bringing healthcare apps to life!