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Telehealth is a success. But what’s next?

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The year 2020 is poised to be one of the most transformational periods in healthcare ever. 

Almost overnight, COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns disrupted decades of healthcare delivery protocols as well as patients’ needs and expectations, shifting previously in-person services onto the internet.

While COVID-19 turned healthcare upside down, there’s one silver lining to this crisis. Thanks to new technologies, lockdowns, and temporary waivers on Medicare limitations, telehealth usage has skyrocketed.

According to data from McKinsey, the rate of U.S. consumers using telehealth services has more than quadrupled during the pandemic, surging from 11% in 2019 to 46%. Healthcare providers are seeing as many as 175 times the number of patients virtually as they did before COVID-19.

How telehealth is redefining care delivery

In a recent RingCentral-hosted Twitter chat—#RCChat—B2B influencer Evan Kirstel and seasoned healthcare professional Lance Mehaffey discussed the future of telehealth, including how web chat technology, cloud communications, and telehealth go together.

The rapid rate of adoption this year is impressive. Virtual care experiences provide a great opportunity to examine the potential of telehealth as a formidable healthcare delivery model in the future—helping to identify what works and what doesn’t.

“Nearly 90% of patients felt their telehealth visit was as good or better than an in-office visit,” Mehaffey told Twitter chat participants. 

“There is a perception that #virtualcare is 2nd best, when in reality, the continuous, proactive care we provide is more than just a stopgap during #COVID,” noted @CareByFirefly, a telehealth provider based in Boston. “Virtual-first primary care gives the ability to quickly get in contact with a care team and formulate the most effective plan.” 

They went on to tweet: “Our patients have expressed time and again how impressed they have been with the ability to continue conversations with their care team. Follow-ups after appointments or referrals give patients consistent and proactive care, and they love that!”

Building on these positive experiences, @EvanKirtsel predicts the double-punch of accessibility to telehealth services and internet-enabled monitoring devices—such as insulin pumps—will help to reduce demands on the healthcare system.

Given that six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic condition (and four in 10 have two or more chronic diseases), the potential of telehealth to improve the speed and access to care could prove to be a game changer.

Improving the pain of telehealth

But despite positive assessments of telehealth experiences during the pandemic, the virtual delivery of healthcare services has not been entirely pain-free for providers. Moving forward, a failure to reduce the key challenges medical providers have experienced may dampen the future potential of telehealth.

“Workflow seems to be a challenge in many physician practices,” tweeted Kirstel. “Admin staff [are] somewhat overwhelmed by all the new tech.” Concerns include not only providing reliable, secure, and simple connectivity with patients, but also administrative challenges such as scheduling and integrating patient EMRs. 

These reported drawbacks underscore the need to employ the right telehealth technology. “High-quality voice, video, and messaging are fundamental to telehealth success!” says Kirstel. Layering CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) atop of a cloud-based unified video, voice, and messaging platform can further support the broader patient experience, enhancing aspects such as scheduling and delivery of care.

The future is telehealth

According to Accenture, over 60% of patients want to continue using telehealth services after the public health crisis ends.

In addition, McKinsey reports that healthcare providers have a more positive view and are more comfortable using telehealth than they were before the pandemic. 

Given that both patients and providers have favorable assessments, it seems evident that telehealth is a delivery model for the future. To ease the way, providers must now give careful thought to the technology they employ to support virtual care models.

Integrating CCaaS and UCaaS to EMR-based patient portals will enhance telehealth service scheduling, delivery, and patient experience. This enables web chat-based telehealth inquiries and scheduling, another efficient digital channel to connect patients and providers,” says Mehaffey.

For more on how telehealth will drive the future of healthcare, and how providers can enable optimal virtual care services via the cloud, download our new white paper by Spyglass Consulting now. And join the conversation about the future of telehealth with @RingCentral at #RCChat.

Originally published Oct 01, 2020, updated Oct 02, 2020

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