Whether you prefer the term ‘telehealth’ or ‘telemedicine’, combining remote networking with healthcare delivery brings a lot to the table. Many of us learned that the hard way during the COVID pandemic. With stay-at-home orders in place and doctor’s offices closed, the only way to see a primary care physician or specialist was through video chat. Now, looking back, it is especially important that the healthcare industry learn from the experience.
To that end, it may be helpful to explore how telehealth was utilized from the start of the pandemic through the end of 2021. A Health Net survey of 98 California medical providers sheds some light on the issue. According to that study, here are the top four ways individual providers and healthcare facilities made use of telehealth during the pandemic:
1. Patient Health Screenings – 42%
The number one use of telehealth, according to the survey, was to provide patient health screenings. These are screenings for people who are dealing with chronic health issues and who normally visit the doctor’s office on a regular basis. For example, diabetic patients undergo routine health screenings to make sure they are staying within established parameters.
CSI Health, a company that designs and manufactures state-of-the-art telemedicine solutions, says health screening services represent the perfect opportunity to employ telehealth technologies. Products like medical kiosks equipped for virtual health screenings reach more patients and reduce in-office traffic. Both patient and provider benefit.
2. Preventative Care – 31%
Preventative care is practiced by GPs and family doctors on a regular basis. It makes up the bulk of primary care. So it is not surprising that more than one-third of the survey respondents mentioned utilizing telehealth to provide preventative services. Such services typically include wellness checks and routine checkups not relating to specific illnesses or injuries.
3. Health Education – 17%
It is interesting to note that survey respondents used telehealth for services above and beyond direct patient care. According to the survey, approximately 17% took advantage of telehealth technology to provide educational services. They educated consumers on everything from smoking cessation to nutrition and physical activity.
CSI Health says that education is another great candidate for telemedicine solutions. It is particularly attractive to healthcare providers looking for a low-cost solution for remote education. For example, working with a pharmacy chain to install educational medical kiosks can help providers reach patients in rural areas, patients without the means to travel long distances to access educational opportunities.
4. Mental Health Services – 16%
If there is one aspect to the survey that seems surprising, it would be that only 16% of the respondents said they utilized telehealth to provide mental health services. All through the height of the pandemic, we were hearing from experts that our collective mental health was suffering from a combination of bad news, fear, and being stuck at home. It seems only fitting that more patients would have sought mental health services during that time.
Regardless, mental health services are served very well by telemedicine in the sense that consulting with a therapist or psychiatrist does not always require a personal visit. It is the talking that does the trick, not actually sitting in a therapist’s office. So once again, telehealth is a great option for providers looking to reach more patients in an efficient and cost-effective way.
We now know how telemedicine was utilized during the COVID crisis. With COVID finally reaching endemic stage, it is time to look back on how well telemedicine performed and begin planning for how we will utilize it in the future. Healthcare consumers are counting on it.