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The future of telehealth in the new normal

On account of the pandemic, the acceleration and adoption of technology have risen across industries especially in the health sector. As we transition to the post-pandemic age, the healthcare sector has become more cautious about meeting the health needs of patients by providing accessible and high-quality care; and telehealth is becoming a tool that is helping healthcare providers improve their services.

As early as its first months of impacting populations, the pandemic has forced healthcare systems to expand digital solutions in addressing healthcare needs. According to a report titled “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” published on the American Journal of Management Care (AJMC), telehealth visits increased by 154% during the first quarter of 2020.

Moreover, according to the 2022 State of Telemedicine Survey of US-based software consultancy company Software Advice, 70% of patients started using telemedicine during the pandemic, while 68% of healthcare providers have started using telemedicine in their business operations.

In addition, the adoption of telemedicine accelerated far more quickly than anticipated, considering 62% have continued utilizing telemedicine in the post-pandemic stage, and 92% of the patients believed to be more inclined to choose health organizations that utilize telemedicine as well.

Moving forward to the new normal, the future of telehealth remains optimistic. As telehealth becomes an alternative solution for healthcare services, the potential of what telehealth will contribute to the healthcare sector is becoming more and more apparent.

Healthcare professionals see the continuation of using telehealth in medical services. Especially for follow-up appointments, telehealth is now regarded as a “cost-effective first line of treatment,” as healthcare content hub Healthcare Transformers Editor Rachel Marley described in an article about the future of healthcare.

Telehealth offers increased patient engagement, cost-effectiveness, and adherence to a treatment plan. Patients can easily communicate with their doctors easily using telehealth. Unlike waiting for a long time and wasting transportation fees, more regular interactions between patients and doctors are now possible virtually to detect minor issues before causing more difficulties.

“As for the quality of care, early evidence suggests that services delivered through telehealth can be equivalent to in-person care for managing chronic diseases and treating behavioral health issues,” said nonprofit organization Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) on its discussion about the future of telehealth on its website.

Telehealth has also been seen initially transforming particular medical fields and addressing certain aspects of health, including mental health, which was seen to have worsened among many patients since the pandemic. Professionals in this field have also shifted to digital solutions, including videoconferencing, to continuously connect with their patients and address their needs. Telehealth services like teletherapy and telepsychiatry have been established as alternative treatments. Teletherapy is a form of therapy conducted on online platforms, while telepsychiatry is a form of telemedicine where therapy, psychiatric evaluations, and medication management occurs.

With the increasing demand for telehealth, it is only right that health organizations improve patients’ telehealth experiences. According to Ms. Marley of Healthcare Transformers, many developers are enhancing telehealth services by developing integrated communications, including video, webchats, and bots, while enabling real-time updates, reminders, and appointments, which can be done easily.

Also, with wearable technology and patient monitoring, clinicians are expected to be better equipped to diagnose and counsel their patients. The use of telehealth is seen to help healthcare practitioners to manage health records and data privacy easily and more accurately. Moreover, the technology and platforms used in telehealth will be simple to use for both the patient and the doctor.

Nonetheless, technology investments, which is considered the foundation of telehealth, are crucial for telehealth to further grow. Investments in knowledge and technology, in particular, will help enable effective health applications that will benefit all.

Because of the pandemic, healthcare workers have been pressured further and were even decreasing in number, and investments in technology is seen to further provide better treatment and ease the burden on the sector.

“Whether technology evolves to the point that even physical exams are done virtually or not, the simple truth is that your practice should invest in more telemedicine software to attract and retain patients,” Software Advice said.

Such investments will be very needed as telehealth becomes a solid part of healthcare after it has proven to be helpful in the midst of the pandemic.

“Telehealth has proved not only to be more convenient for patients but it has the potential to provide so many further benefits including improved public health, improving access to care, relieving pressure on the healthcare work force, and helping reduce financial stress,” Ms. Marley said.

“Telehealth provides the healthcare industry with so many advantages that although we are starting to see the end of this pandemic, the utilization of this revolutionary technology will continue far into the future,” she added. — Angela Kiara S. Brillantes

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