The COVID-19 pandemic gave many healthcare fields the push they needed to seek new solutions. Technologies that seemed to be non-vital proved themselves to be the opposite. For a field like orthopedics, technology is critical to providing patients a full range of accurate and efficient care.
Consider X-Rays, CTs, and MRIs: where would the orthopedic field be without them? Still, healthcare today is about more than necessity. Modern healthcare practices should be striving to improve care and the patient experience as a whole. As such, they need to embrace all that modern technology can offer. Orthopedics practices, in particular, can vastly improve their services by embracing a digital transformation.
The Need for Transformation
There is no question that the pandemic forced healthcare practices worldwide to address their shortcomings in terms of patient care. As providers suddenly could no longer provide patients in-person care in the same way as before, they were forced to find new solutions. For many practices, the solution they found was telehealth.
Telehealth enables providers to care for their patients virtually, both synchronously and asynchronously. As a result, they could continue treating and communicating with their patients, even when in different locations. This ensured that patients received the care they needed during the pandemic without compromising their health or safety.
While the pandemic is still going on, many patients and providers have returned to some form of their normal routine. Still, once patients discovered the benefits of telehealth, they realized that it didn’t have to go away when the pandemic did. Instead, many patients now prefer this newfound digital style of healthcare, as it offers them not the same level of care - but improved.
Through telehealth, patients can still communicate with their physicians, receiving consultations and routine visits, but at greater convenience and accessibility than ever. Even beyond communicating with their providers virtually, patients gain greater access to healthcare information and tools, allowing them to take their health into their own hands more than ever before.
While patients love the benefits that telehealth and other new technologies provide them, it’s not just the patients who benefit from this digital transformation. Healthcare practices also see significant improvements in their care and business through the adoption of such technologies. For orthopedics practices, embracing this technology can help overcome common obstacles - new and old.
Ongoing Challenges in Orthopedics
The field of orthopedics is complex, requiring medical imaging, treatment, surgery, and even ongoing care for patients. As with any healthcare practice, there are challenges to overcome in treating patients and running a business. That being said, on top of old challenges, the pandemic introduced new challenges to orthopedics, such as:
1. In-Person Care
When the pandemic hit, practices could not care for their patients in-person, but that didn’t stop patients from needing care. Particularly for patients with chronic conditions requiring ongoing care, this created a serious challenge for patients and providers. With limited digital options available during the outbreak of COVID-19, physicians were unable to treat their patients properly.
2. Decrease in Revenue
As a consequence of providers being unable to care for their patients in-person, orthopedics practices saw a significant decline in revenue and patient volume after the start of the pandemic. Even years after the outbreak, practices are still recovering from the negative financial impact of COVID-19 and trying to increase their patient volume to preserve their business.
3. Administrative Tasks
While the pandemic certainly introduced new challenges to orthopedic practices, they also continue to face more traditional challenges such as managing administrative tasks. With each patient, there is a mountain of paperwork ranging from insurance, billing, medical records, all the way to scheduling. Administrative tasks are essential to keeping a practice organized, but the more time spent on these tasks, the less time is spent on patient care.
4. Record Management
Similar to administrative tasks, record management is a critical component of running an orthopedic practice, but also a tedious one. Providers rely on patient records to assess progress, review treatment, and diagnosis. If records are lost or damaged, it could result in inaccurate patient care. But again, the more time spent organizing, storing, and looking for records, the less time is spent on patients.
5. Diagnosing Patients
Diagnosing patients is a significant component of healthcare and must be done accurately and consistently. That being said, it can be challenging to make an accurate diagnosis without the right tools, and a wrong diagnosis could have dire consequences. This is particularly vital in orthopedics, where providers must diagnose based upon medical images.
Transforming Orthopedic Care Through Technology
Adopting a telehealth platform is instrumental to the start of a digital transformation. Beyond overcoming the challenge of meeting patients in-person during the pandemic, telehealth provides countless other benefits to orthopedic practices. Physicians can also perform follow-ups and consultations with patients virtually, communicate regularly, provide second opinions, and even telediagnoses.
Telehealth platforms consolidate healthcare resources into one convenient and user-friendly portal, enabling providers and patients to connect with ease. As a result, patients can get the care they need from any location, more conveniently and efficiently than exclusively in-person visits.
Because location is no longer a factor with telehealth, users also obtain access to a network of providers and patients. For orthopedics practices struggling to increase their patient volume, they will be able to access millions of patients globally.
While providers will still need to see their patients in-person for certain surgeries and procedures, telehealth is instrumental for routine visits and ongoing communications. For patients with ongoing and chronic conditions, the option to conduct them virtually ensures they get regular care without strenuous or repetitive commutes.
Even beyond healthcare services, a telehealth platform is highly beneficial in managing and alleviating administrative tasks. Within the portal, patients can schedule appointments, access documents, make virtual payments, and refill prescriptions virtually. Tasks that previously took away from a physician’s time with patients can now be accelerated and even automated. - saving time and ensuring organization within a practice.
Wearable Remote Monitoring Devices
Telehealth platforms can even be used in tandem with other highly advanced medical devices such as wearable remote monitoring devices. Wearable devices are tremendously helpful to providers looking to monitor their patients on an ongoing basis. Patients can go about their everyday routines while their provider can still ensure safety. In orthopedics, where many patients need consistent tracking of their vital signs, this is revolutionary.
As the device tracks statuses such as movement, temperature, and heart rate, it can be directly reported to a provider via their telehealth platform. Providers can then monitor and review this data for diagnostic and treatment purposes, drastically improving the accuracy of care.
Orthopedics heavily relies on medical imaging to diagnose and treat patients. In order to assess a patient’s condition, providers must be able to review not only new images, but also previous ones to determine how a patient’s condition is progressing - as such, storing and preserving these images and medical records is vital.
With a telehealth platform, users can easily upload preexisting medical records and images, converting them into electronic health records (EHRs). Once uploaded, these records can be securely stored for later access. Not only will these records be safe from damage or loss, but they can be shared and accessed quickly for medical reference. With optimal EHR storage, providers can treat patients faster and more accurately, significantly improving the treatment and diagnosis.
Embracing Our Digital Future
COVID-19 introduced some serious setbacks to orthopedics practices worldwide, on top of the preexisting challenges they faced. But, with so much technology available today, many of these challenges can be overcome. Solutions such as telehealth open up the door to countless tools and technologies, all of which can drastically improve patient care, and thus your practice. For orthopedics practices to survive these uncertain times, and long after, embracing a digital transformation is necessary.