COVID-19 has affected the healthcare industry in significant ways. As state and local governments try to stop the number of infections, hospitals are struggling to contain the spread of the pandemic within their walls. At the same time, there is the issue of the high influx of new COVID-19 victims and the shortage of personal protective equipment. If there was a time when a physical visit to the doctor was risky, then it is now.
Yet as COVID-19 takes center stage on mainstream media, people still struggle with other forms of illnesses. Patients with diabetes, for instance, require continuity of care to avoid complications. There are cancer patients, Alzheimer’s, respiratory conditions and other illnesses that require prompt attention. So, how do you connect with a physician now?
The Growing Use of Telehealth
COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency needed for developing sustainable health care services. The pandemic has forced healthcare providers to look for innovative ways to connect with their patients. So far, platforms such as Skype and Facetime have become the preferred channel to conduct telehealth visits due to the familiarity that consumers have with these channels.
Telehealth has seized the doctors’ visit and transformed it into virtual appointments. Whether you have a common cold or are struggling with depression, you can now connect with a physician online. Telehealth connects patients to much-needed health care services through video conferencing, remote monitoring, and virtual consults.
The response from practitioners in every field is a welcome and necessary one, as issues such as depression and anxiety are rising due to COVID-19. A recent report revealed that the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 has significantly affected the mental health of many people. In the report, 45% of U.S. adults admitted that their mental health has been negatively affected.
The pandemic has created a barrier for people who have mental conditions and substance abuse disorders. Treatments for mental health conditions should be consistent, and telehealth allows therapists and other mental health practitioners to keep treating their patients without interruption. Therapists are presently treating depression, anxiety, and addiction with telehealth. Care facilities, with guidance from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, can now prescribe buprenorphine induction through audio-only telehealth. Such innovations have made it easy for people to access addiction treatment easier and in the midst of the pandemic from their homes.
Therapists and psychologists have been using telehealth to engage with patients with various conditions via remote/telehealth visits. Healthcare practitioners are also conducting follow-ups online with patients picking up prescriptions from local pharmacies.
As hospitals struggle to create space for COVID-19 victims, telehealth ensures that there’s continuity of care. People struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, long-term conditions, or a common cold, can access a specialized provider in minutes by hopping on their computer or phone.
Primary Care, Pediatrics, and Urgent Care
COVID or not, babies and children are still getting sick and have common conditions where parents want to see a pediatrician to be put at ease. Telehealth is giving parents the ability to see a pediatrician, often within thirty minutes, all online. Some medical providers already had telehealth in place and were ready to make the shift when COVID-19 hit. Unfortunately, other medical providers are experiencing first-hand the consequences of not having telehealth services. Most have readily adapted and now have a clear path to seeing a pediatrician online.
Primary care which is significant in early detection and prevention of personal health has also become much more prevalent in telehealth as medical groups have employed communication platforms to deliver care via virtual visits. Concierge physicians have also utilized virtual care to stay in communication and deliver care without any direct interaction with a patient.
Urgent care has also seen a lift in telehealth usage. Although there are obvious limits that telehealth imposes, a good portion of health concerns that urgent care generally addresses can be taken care of during a telehealth visit.
Have Doctors and Patients Fully Adapted to Telehealth?
Most healthcare facilities have adapted well to telehealth services. Still, a study by the Kaiser Foundation reported that 48% of people have either skipped or postponed care during the pandemic. 11% of those who participated in the report state that the condition of their loved one worsened during COVID. While there has been progress, there is still a long way to go to make things easier for both providers and patients.
There are a significant number of people who simply struggle to find the best provider for a given condition. Add the potential need to connect with a specialized provider digitally, and it can feel impossible to find a doctor. This need is what prompted me to launch JOY MD. JOY MD is a health platform that makes it easy for patients to find the best providers in healthcare.
We find ourselves in a world that is full of uncertainty. Yet it is in a moment like this that we look for innovative ways to forge ahead. Telehealth is no longer a subject of discussion in board meetings. Telemedicine is here, and we must remember it will be a learning experience for both doctors and patients.