According to the Harvard Business Review, 84 percent of 1,600 respondents said they would prefer to use telemedicine services if they were offered. Patients want digital features to help them manage their healthcare plan, from printing ID cards, accessing digital explanations of benefits and comparing plans to scheduling appointments, locating pharmacies, and refilling prescriptions.
The benefits of telehealth to consumers vary widely. Telehealth can provide patients in rural areas with access to immediate care, there is a reduced wait time when calling into a virtual appointment, lower costs, and fewer daily interruptions caused by having to take time off of work or schedule childcare. There is also a large variety of healthcare services offered now, from traditional healthcare to non-traditional healthcare in the form of health apps.
Telehealth Services are Widely Available
Telehealth services have changed the way consumers are able to connect with their healthcare provider and deal with health concerns. Prior to 2020, telehealth and telemedicine utilization were rather low. According to a 2019 study by Definitive Healthcare, only about 33 percent of inpatient hospitals and 45 percent of outpatient facilities offered telehealth services to their patients in 2019. However, that statistic has since increased by 42 percent in 2020. This rapid increase in convenient care use was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and has led to an industry-wide implementation of telehealth services to better serve patients; it is now the common standard within the healthcare system.
Although there was a surge in telehealth this year, these services were available before now. Very few patients used these services or had access to them, largely due to their healthcare providers. This surge in use has proven that telehealth has many benefits to consumers, especially in times like these.
There is a Large Variety of Telehealth Services
There is a large variety of telehealth services available for healthcare providers to use. The purpose of telehealth services is to connect patients to the right kind of care, whether it be set up directly through their main physician’s office or through a third party. For example, Cigna offers behavioral health services, such as counseling and family therapy, and RelyMD offers employee virtual health, which allows employers to provide innovative benefits, and drive convenient around-the-clock care for employees.
Along with traditional methods of telemedicine, such as telecommunicating with your primary care physician about any and all healthcare concerns, there are also other health-related services offered through websites and apps.
These health-related apps can offer an easier way for you to obtain discounts on prescriptions, maintain a healthy diet, and get essentials like prescription eyeglasses or home gym equipment.
- GoodRx: The GoodRx app can help find the lowest local prices for prescriptions at more than 70,000 U.S. pharmacies and can save users up to 80% on prescriptions through the use of coupons.
- Lose It!: The Lose It! app can track calories consumed throughout the day to help users lose weight. It can also scan food labels and track sleep patterns.
- Warby Parker: The Warby Parker app can help users find the perfect set of frames using their virtual try-on feature. The app also helps connect users with multiple daily, bi-weekly, and monthly contact lens brands, including their own daily contact lenses, Scout by Warby Parker.
- Peloton: Purchasing the Peloton bike or treadmill gives users complimentary access to the app or the app can be purchased separately for $12.99/month. With the app, users can transform their fitness routine at home with thousands of on-demand classes taught by world-class instructors.
Telehealth Services Follow Privacy Requirements
One of the main reasons that telehealth was less popular in past years is because patients were skeptical about privacy and security risks. However, the third-party services that healthcare providers are using have recently increased their privacy policies and security protocols. These updates assure patients’ personal health information when meeting with physicians are protected.
The privacy protocols that healthcare providers are expected to abide by in the office are still strictly enforced via telecommunication services for online visits. For instance, doctors will still be expected to maintain the HIPAA privacy rule, which requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information and gives patients rights over their health information.
Telehealth is Cheaper for Patients
Lastly, having a telehealth appointment instead of an in-person appointment will save patients money and time. A telehealth visit requires a doctor to meet with their patients through their phone, laptop, or tablet. Without the costs of traveling to the doctor’s office, parking, childcare, and taking time off work, the patient will effectively be saving both time and money. An added bonus is time saved trying to fit a doctor’s appointment into a busy schedule.
A patient survey from UPMC stated that 40 percent of their patients admitted that they would skip an appointment due to the travel burden if they did not have access to a virtual visit. Telehealth not only ensures people are prioritizing their health concerns, but also decreases the number of no-shows at doctor’s offices, ultimately helping office revenue.
The use of telemedicine has significantly increased in the past few months and will likely continue on this trend now that it has been established within society. It offers convenience to patients and physicians and encourages patients to speak with a physician more often, which is incredibly important during these times.
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