With industries becoming increasingly digitized, there’s no reason why healthcare should escape this evolution. Telehealth – which is the delivery of healthcare and health information through remote technology – is becoming an increasingly important part of American healthcare.
The pandemic helped accelerate the innovation of many industries, and healthcare was very much one of these. COVID restrictions made it more difficult to get doctors appointments and hospital visits. Not only because they were overrun with demand from those suffering from having Covid, but because of the precautionary social distancing measures in place.
Turning to virtual appointments seemed an inevitability. It had already existed prior to 2019, but this was its chance to become normalised.
Telehealth in mental health
One of the best use cases of telehealth is mental health assessments and therapy. Websites such as bestonlinetherapy.com can display just how many options those in need of help actually have now. There are around 16 sites accepting American clients, with Betterhelp, Talkspace, and Amwell being some of the leaders of the industry.
The service that’s being delivered is essentially being able to talk to therapists anytime you need, whether it’s over text or a phone call. This makes therapy incredibly accessible, and not just a stop-gap fix until social distancing and the pandemic calms down.
Of course, it’s not just innovation that has led us here, but the demand for these services has increased over the pandemic. Not only are people more aware of these remote healthcare providers, but they’re more in need of them than ever before.
Staying indoors with fewer social interactions, hobbies postponed, and many losing their jobs and businesses, it has been the perfect storm for producing mental health problems.
The demand for online therapy is likely to continue long after the pandemic ‘ends’. Many of those suffering from depression and anxiety see visiting a therapist’s office as a huge barrier. It takes courage and confidence to make an appointment and show us, and many see online conversation as more anonymous.
Of course, it’s often a first step – but an important step to make. Many realize the benefits of therapy during online sessions and end up transitioning to something more intensive. The apps are helping normalize therapy, which bridges the gap between what can sometimes feel like two extremes: having a traditional therapist and not having one.
Finally, it’s simply become a more cost effective way for people to seek help. Nobody is denying the value of traditional therapy, but many struggle to afford it. Given that online therapists are usually on-hand as and when the client needs them, $65 to $100 per week can seem like incredible value.
It’s incredibly important to assess the credibility of the company the client chooses. Therapy in the wrong hands can be counter productive, so it’s important to receive digital help from a professional. Fortunately, being online isn’t a deterrent to many therapists, who enjoy working from home themselves.
Telemedicine and its differences
Telemedicine is slightly different, but is equally a growing vehicle for delivering healthcare remotely. Whilst telehealth is the overarching term, within this is telemedicine where healthcare professionals diagnose and treat patients from afar, being restricted to specifically clinical services.
This is where things can get tricky, because many health concerns require someone to make an assessment in person. It is however surprising what can be accomplished remotely, through video call and communication.
This began as a trend for those who live in rural areas. Prior to Covid, it was mostly those who couldn’t travel to physical locations for a doctor’s appointment, and so would be assessed online. The convenience, however, is not lost on the urban population.
One of the biggest benefits is also those who have low immune systems. By travelling to hospital, you can be exposed to other contagious patients which poses a real risk – be it Covid or otherwise.
Remote telemedicine can take care of prescriptions renewal, for example, without the need for getting childcare, paying for travel, taking a day off work and risking a contagious environment.
Of course, there needs to be an incentive for healthcare providers, too. Providers enjoy the benefits of having greater efficiency in being able to assess more patients in a day, without the need for as much physical capital.
Plus, experienced doctors need to be offering online healthcare, because otherwise this space will be filled with underqualified online providers. It’s an inevitability, so we need our experienced, credible healthcare professionals onboard.
This also alleviates some of the pressure put on local nurses and staff members in organizations. For example, some schools are teaming up with doctors who provide telemedicine services. This is a better way for the pupil to be assessed by a more experienced professional, in an instant, which removes some of the pressure placed on teachers and nurses.
Some of these relationships with telehealth providers also evolve into an educational platform too. Many providers are specializing in delivering high quality health education to students. This has helped reduce unnecessary days off that children take, whilst simultaneously ensuring good advice to self isolate is offered when needed.
Schools which get paid on a basis of attendance can recoup these costs with children having fewer days off, which is one of many motivations behind telehealth demand.