In many cases, there is no getting around seeing your doctor face-to-face in a doctor’s office. Be it a tooth extraction, a heart transplant, or a facelift, your presence is going to be required inside a medical center or a physician’s treatment facility.
However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry switched to telehealth to treat patients who don’t necessarily need to see a doctor in a physical setting since they can describe their symptoms via Zoom or Skype or any number of telehealth video conferencing online platforms.
According to a recent report, telehealth is impossible without the internet. However, the invention of telehealth would not be capable of virtual medical visits without broadband connectivity, internet guidelines, patient reimbursement agreements, privacy policies, widespread accessibility, and so much more.
But for obvious reasons, telehealth popularity skyrocketed during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics prove that in the U.S. alone, 34.5 million telehealth visits were recorded between March and June of 2020 alone. That represented a 2,632 percent increase from the same period during 2019.
Said one healthcare professional, telehealth proved not only to be a safer alternative to meeting in person during the pandemic, but it also became much more convenient for patients and healthcare providers alike.
Telehealth Becomes Telemedicine
But, say the experts, telehealth has become more than just a tool of convenience over the past two years. For instance, it aided in limiting the spread of the virus (and other ailments). It helped lower the cost of healthcare while, at the same time, increasing its access.
Now also referred to as telemedicine, telehealth is also said to have engineered a “critical bridge” for providing patients with care behavioral/mental health treatments. During the height of the pandemic, mental health issues spiked as the majority of the world’s population found themselves isolated. They also suffered from acute anxiety over getting the disease or, worse, dying from it.
The Mental Component of Telehealth
The telehealth visits that increased due to depression and anxiety cannot be stressed enough. Studies show that overall behavioral health service claims grew 6,500 percent during the first two months of 2021. Anxiety claims soared by 3,000 percent, and depression claims another 2,500 percent. Substance abuse issues spiked by almost 1,500 percent also.
What’s more, many of these telehealth visits came from brand new patients who were seeking out treatment for the first time. Ironically, the studies prove that a real disconnect existed between telehealth/telemedicine prior to the pandemic.
Said one report, before the pandemic, telehealth was massively “underutilized for mental health services.” But the spike in mental health medical claims from March 2020 through the whole of 2021 proves that telehealth as a mental health treatment option is not only here to stay but will be a major player going forward.
The Future of Telehealth/Telemedicine
Telehealth wasn’t invented during or specifically for the pandemic. In fact, it’s been around for years. Its development and popularity only grew due to the pandemic. Say medical experts, the very definition of telehealth’s future is evolving every day. It can be a simple phone call between a nurse and a patient. Or it can be a video chat with your physician. It can even constitute a “patient monitoring connection.”
With clinical offices being largely shut down during the pandemic, the rapid adoption of telehealth became not a choice but a necessity. The demand for telehealth naturally increased, but here is the surprising thing: when medical offices reopened, there was still a strong demand for telehealth care. Says one medical care provider, “the genie is out of the bottle on telehealth.”
In other words, telehealth/telemedicine is not only going nowhere anytime soon; it’s expected to expand and improve given time. It can become a much-valued tool for patient care for it to suddenly return to its pre-pandemic lack of popularity.
The online tech has not only become loved by patients who hate visiting a doctor’s office for something as simple as the common flu, but it has also become loved because it is less expensive.
Amazon Is Getting Into the Telehealth Game
Even the merchandising gargantuan Amazon sees huge potential in telehealth’s future. Back in the early part of 2022, Amazon officially launched its own version of a nationwide telehealth services platform called Amazon Care.
More specifically, Amazon had been toying with a pilot telemedicine program in Washington State as early as 2019. The tool, which can be accessed by any mobile app and/or computer, is said to offer no-cost, on-demand telemedicine consults with medical professionals via video conferencing or chat.
The wait time?
Less than 60 seconds. Now that beats the heck out of sitting in a bacteria/virus-infested waiting room for up to an hour at a time.