The concept of telemedicine has existed since the inception of telecommunication technology. As technology improved, the healthcare sector began using telehealth to provide care to patients in rural areas. As the general public became more comfortable using computers and smart devices, the demand for telemedicine began to rise.

COVID Healthcare Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic thrust telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare priorities. The logistical and safety concerns made it almost impossible for certain patients to receive care. Parents with young children couldn’t go to facilities that didn’t allow additional guests. Patients with COVID comorbidities didn’t want to risk infection by traveling for routine appointments. The burden was particularly high on individuals seeking mental health services, as many of these required face-to-face interactions without telemedicine.

Pre-Pandemic Telemedicine Hurdles

Despite rapid advancements in telecommunications, telemedicine growth was slow before the pandemic. Coverage wasn’t clear and varied from one insurance provider to another. Many within the industry also viewed the process of establishing such a system as cost prohibitive. COVID shifted the idea of telemedicine from a luxury to a must-have to maintain patient health.

Advantages of Telemedicine

The obvious advantage of embracing telemedicine is the ability to continue providing patient care when an in-office visit isn’t tenable. However, it offers many other advantages. These include:

  • Convenience. Telemedicine eliminates the travel and planning headaches associated with traditional office visits. Patients don’t have to travel, find parking, or sit in a room full of other ill people as they wait their turn. Patients also don’t have to coordinate childcare for virtual appointments. Virtual appointments don’t require as much time off from work either, as patients don’t have to account for their travel time.
  • Less exposure. Virtual appointments reduce the spread of germs and contagious conditions. If a virtual visit isn’t possible, hospitals and healthcare providers can use telemedicine to pre-screen patients for symptoms of infection.
  • Better accessibility. Doctors’ offices block out a set amount of time for in-person visits, which limits the number of patients the doctor can see. Lack of accessibility is frustrating for patients, especially when they have simple questions. Virtual appointments offer more scheduling flexibility, as these are often much shorter than in-person visits. Patients also have more access to specialists. Receiving specialty care often involves driving long distances and a significant time commitment. Patients may not be physically able to make the trip or have the work flexibility to take off the necessary time. Telemedicine eases these constraints and allows patients to receive the best care for their conditions.

The pandemic catalyzed the widespread acceptance of telemedicine, and patients aren’t likely to give it up even as COVID infections decline. Healthcare providers must meet the demand for telemedicine to remain competitive in the healthcare sector and avoid losing patients to other providers. Contact Windermere Insurance Group to learn how we can help your healthcare organization manage its risks as you upgrade your telemedicine capabilities.