When COVID-19 hit in 2020, there was no way of anticipating how it would change healthcare, and the world, for the foreseeable future. Worldwide, people retreated into their homes and began to embrace the remote lifestyle - between work, school, and virtually everything else. Still, perhaps one of the greatest surprises to come out of the pandemic was the healthcare industry’s transition to going remote.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed physicians that it was possible to care for patients while remote, revolutionizing healthcare as we knew it. Now, nearly two years after the initial outbreak, many of these post-COVID changes have stuck around, and we believe they are here to stay in the healthcare industry.
Transitioning to Virtual Visits
The most significant change in healthcare that COVID-19 has introduced is the transition from exclusively conducting in-person doctor’s appointments to offering virtual visits as well. Until the pandemic, doctor’s appointments were always conducted in person, no matter the purpose of the visit. As such, patients had to commute to their doctor for even the most routine of visits, whether refilling a prescription or granting a clean bill of health during an annual check-up.
While this was acceptable in the past, such casual visits were no longer feasible with the risk of exposure to COVID and the limitations of healthcare professionals. As a result, practices and clinics worldwide took advantage of the technologies available and began to conduct non-emergent and routine visits virtually via a telehealth application. While in-person visits were still available, they were only used if necessary, saving patients and providers time.
In transitioning to both in-person and virtual visits, providers and patients were able to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 (and any other viruses) and reduce the unnecessary need to commute to their physician’s office. Instead, patients can receive the care they need from the comfort of their homes. As such, they experience less disruption to their day and less exposure to illness, enabling happier and healthier patients.
Many were concerned that virtual visits would compromise the level of care that providers could offer to their patients, but the opposite is true. Within virtual visits, providers can still communicate with their patients in addition to witnessing any visual cues. This information can then be used to make diagnoses, write prescriptions, and create treatment plans.
Furthermore, because this visit was conducted virtually, both the patient and provider benefit from the heightened efficiency offered. Patients get the care they need without an inconvenient commute, and physicians can provide care more quickly and efficiently without compromising quality. As virtual visits are still prevalent and in high demand two years after their introduction, there is no question that virtual visits are here to stay.
Breaking Down Barriers Between Patients and Providers
Another significant change brought on in the aftermath of COVID is the breakdown of the barrier between patients and providers. In the past, healthcare was inaccessible to countless communities and individuals worldwide. For many individuals, receiving care from the right provider is not feasible unless they live in their geographic region.
If this is not the case, unless the patient can afford the cost and time off of work or childcare required to travel to the specialist in question, they cannot get the care they need. Instead, patients must settle for a local provider that may not have the required expertise or go without care entirely. As such, a significant portion of the population was not getting the care they needed and deserved - until COVID-19 changed everything.
Once COVID-19 began to change how the healthcare system operated, healthcare became significantly more accessible to patients. Through developments in telehealth, patients were suddenly able to access the providers and specialists they needed - no matter their location. Patients could simply log in to their telehealth portal and access a global network of physicians, take their pick, and make contact virtually.
Soon after, they could have a virtual meeting with the provider of their choice, finally getting the help they needed. As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the adoption of telehealth services, patients were finally able to get the high-quality care they needed without putting the rest of their life on hold or settling for inadequate care.
Even for physicians, telehealth has allowed them to grow their practices. Telehealth opens providers up to a network of other physicians they can collaborate with, in addition to a network of patients seeking care. As a result, both patients and providers can find the right person to provide and receive care, breaking down the barrier between the two.
The Cultivation of Instant Communication
Speaking of breaking down barriers, the post-COVID world of healthcare has also broken down barriers in terms of direct communication between providers and patients. With the help of telehealth platforms, patients can communicate with their providers instantaneously.
Before the pandemic, patients could only speak with their physicians during in-person visits or if an emergency, over a phone call - but only during regular business hours. With a telehealth platform, patients can directly message their providers at any time, from any location. This means that patients can get the information they need when they need it and get a timely response.
This level of instant communication is highly beneficial for patients looking for updates on their medical status or for test results. Once information is available, their physician can message them without scheduling an appointment or playing phone tag. Instead, patients get the information they need, available in their hands at all times. As a result, patients can manage their own health with the help of their provider, while both parties are kept in the loop about the patient’s health and status.
Through the convenience of instant communication, patients and providers can also build stronger relationships than ever before. With an improved relationship, patients are more likely to be honest about their health, follow their treatment plan, and have a better experience as a patient. Consequently, they are more likely to remain healthy or recover, and physicians will benefit from happy and healthy patients.
COVID’s Influence of Telehealth
If there were one positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be its influence on telehealth. Without the pandemic, the healthcare industry may not have been as likely to embrace telehealth solutions as they are today, but fortunately, that is not the case. Thanks to the adoption of telehealth post-COVID, patients and providers can reap the plethora of benefits it offers.
With telehealth, patients receive increased access to high-quality healthcare. Through their telehealth platform, patients can connect with the specialists they need, no matter where they are located. As such, patients get the care they deserve, and specialists can expand their practices globally.
Even further, both patients and providers can save time by meeting more efficiently via virtual visits. As virtual visits are quicker and more convenient, patients lose less time in their day commuting and sitting in a waiting room, and providers can spend more time interacting with patients.
Overall, the post-COVID healthcare system offers flexibility, accessibility, and efficiency. COVID-19 kick-started the growth of telehealth, entirely revolutionizing the healthcare industry and patient care for the foreseeable future.