The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many people view healthcare networks. With strained and overflowing hospitals focused exclusively on COVID patients – telehealth visits became the go-to for people seeking medical attention for various day-to-day issues.
Now that the pandemic is officially over, is virtual care here to stay? The short answer is yes – but there is more to unravel.
The benefits of telehealth
- Telehealth provides patients with health care services anytime and anywhere. The key benefit is that patients no longer need to travel to a clinic or hospital to get attention, especially not for relatively minor concerns such as flu, allergic reactions, hives, sunburn, rash, or headaches.
- Telehealth also makes care available faster. Where hospitals and emergency rooms usually require waiting in long lines, telehealth often connects you with a care provider within minutes.
- Virtual care is available to all age groups. However, telehealth is quite important for older patients who may have mobility troubles and can benefit from getting a diagnosis from the convenience of their home.
How might telehealth change post-pandemic?
Telehealth has great benefits for many people. So, while these services are unlikely to go away, they may change a little.
- Policy changes: As telehealth services become more widespread, it’s normal for policymakers to take a closer look at the services provided and implement changes that optimize these services. Authorities will determine which aspects of telehealth should remain as they are and which should be adapted to suit the post-pandemic period.
- Newer technology: There will likely be new data security and technology requirements geared toward providing the best care. With evolving technology, many more patients may benefit from telehealth services in the years to come.
- Improved mental health services: One key benefit of telehealth is that it makes administering mental health care much more accessible. Telehealth has helped remove the geographic restrictions for providing and receiving mental health telehealth services.
- Better adoption of telehealth in rural areas: People in urban areas disproportionately use telehealth services, which sounds counterintuitive since people in rural areas would likely benefit more from telemedicine. However, as of now, poor internet access continues to be a barrier that limits possibilities. In the years to come, innovative tech solutions and better internet access may improve telehealth prospects in rural areas.
The bottom line
During the pandemic, telehealth services enabled people to get medical attention while hospitals were overcrowded and social distancing rules were firmly in place. Now, however, telehealth provides a relatively inexpensive and accessible way for people to get the care they need.
While telemedicine will continue to change and adapt to new legislation and technology – the convenience it brings is here to stay.