The rise of voice-only telehealth: what providers should know

Healthcare provider uses her laptop to conduct telehealth while sitting at her desk.

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Highlights

This article discusses the following key points about the rise of voice-only telehealth and the impact it has on providers:

  • Recent data shows that voice-only telehealth grew in late 2021 even as video-based appointments declined
  • Patient satisfaction with voice-only telehealth has risen sharply
  • Chronic care management is a key area in which routine telehealth appointments have grown
  • Voice-only telehealth offers health and convenience benefits to patients, and cost and efficiency benefits to payers and providers
  • The health system, including government programs and payers, has embraced voice-only telehealth and encourages providers to use it

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The use of telehealth has risen dramatically, as more insurance companies and providers utilized this mode of delivery. Early on, most telehealth involved a combination of voice and video interactions between the provider and patient.

In some circumstances, video-based connections are not practical or desirable for the patient. Thus, for care management of certain conditions, telehealth via live phone calls has become increasingly popular.

Factors contributing to the growth of phone-based telehealth

The following looks at factors contributing to the growth of phone-based telehealth, along with insights on its effectiveness in managing chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

Telehealth growth data

According to the 2021 Rock Health Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey, in late 2021, patient use of live video visits declined. However, live phone telehealth visits increased during the same time period.

Rock Health also reported that patient satisfaction with live phone call telehealth increased by 30 percent in late 2021. When pictures were included asynchronously, the satisfaction level increased by 41 percent in late 2021.

Chronic care management

Chronic care management is a key area of healthcare that has experienced significant growth in the use of telehealth. Routine visits in which physicians check in with patients or share basic information with them can be effectively facilitated on the phone.

Chronic care patients form a large percentage of hospital admissions. This type of emergency care is much more expensive than regular preventative conversations between the provider and the patient.

Continuity of care has been a challenge in the healthcare sector against the high numbers of recent resignations. With efficient communications systems and more use of telehealth, providers can more efficiently fit an optimum number of patients into a day’s schedule. The result is more ability for providers to build and maintain rapport with the chronic care patients under their management.

Why patients like voice-only telehealth

Some chronic health patients may prefer to interact with providers without feeling compelled to be on screen. This point is especially true if the patient has a condition that impacts their physical appearance or abilities. It is also more convenient for a bed-ridden patient to talk on the phone than to appear on video or in person.

Patients battling chronic health problems may also find it difficult to leave the house and drive to regular appointments. Some might even put off care to avoid the hassle of in-person appointments. The voice-only option eliminates the burden of transportation to an appointment and the stress that patients may feel about leaving the house when they aren’t feeling well.

A mother at home with her sick sleeping child, using her mobile for a telehealth session

Why payers want you to use voice-based telehealth

Health insurance payers are big proponents of the telehealth movement. They generally support any type of structure that prioritizes preventative care to protect against more regular and costly emergency treatment.

Payers have a vested interest in promoting initiatives that improve the health and well-being of covered members. Thus, the benefits of more regular conversations and care for covered members correlate with the reduced cost burden to the health system.

Fewer issues with missed appointments

One of the biggest burdens to medical practice operations is missed appointments. With voice-only telehealth, missed appointments are greatly reduced because the patient has no burden to drive to your practice.

Patients who aren’t physically well enough to travel or whose condition creates restrictive protocols inside a medical building would traditionally miss or cancel a lot. With telehealth, these limitations are a non-issue.

Fewer missed appointments allows providers to more efficiently interact with patients under their care at regular time intervals.

Additional positive outcomes with telehealth

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends telehealth for chronic health interventions due to reduced risk factors associated with chronic diseases. Based on its reviews of telehealth systems, the CPSTF identified the following key positive outcomes:

  • More patient adherence to medication and treatment programs: Patients are more accountable to providers for following care instructions when appointments occur more frequently.
  • Better health outcomes: On the whole, the use of telehealth for routine and intervention appointments reduces health risks associated with chronic conditions and increases patient health outcomes.
  • Improved appointment flexibility: With comprehensive communications systems, providers can utilize delivery modes that are preferred by patients or most appropriate to the call.

Unified communications systems provide quality healthcare

To provide quality healthcare via telecommunications, providers need state-of-the-art unified communications systems. Unified communications solutions are cloud-based programs that offer seamless communication across all popular methods.

With a unified communications solution, you can more efficiently manage phone calls with patients, take and organize notes during the calls, and send post-visit follow-up instructions. A unified communications solution also enhances opportunities for collaboration between primary doctors and specialists. Patients can visit with non-local specialists, who can then interact with the primary doctor to discuss care plans.

Though it does require an upfront investment in your tech infrastructure, a unified communications solution offers significant cost-efficiency benefits while beefing up your communication.

Healthcare provider wearing a mask uses a digital tablet for cloud-based communications to enable continuity of care.
UP NEXT: 6 ways cloud-based communications ensure continuity of care

RingCentral enables voice-only telehealth

The rise of voice-only telehealth is an opportunity that providers should seize upon. Payers, via the Medicare program, have adopted telehealth programs and services because of the benefits to both patient healthcare management and systems costs. Providers also benefit from the scheduling flexibility afforded by appointments conducted via a digital communications system.

RingCentral offers an elite cloud-based, cross-platform communications solution that has all the benefits discussed. It gives you full capabilities to coordinate calls, conduct live communications, track notes, share documents, hold appointments, and collaborate with other care team members. Better healthcare outcomes at a lower cost. Cloud communications systems are transforming healthcare. Find out how.

Originally published Apr 19, 2022, updated Jun 02, 2022

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Chronic care management via voice: the impact on payers

Highlights Voice-only telehealth grew significantly in late 2021, and patients reported much higher levels of satisfaction with this appointment format. Telehealth allows doctors to check in more regularly with patients and monitor basic health data remotely, reducing the number and cost of in-person visits. Technology and innovation have advanced opportunities for reliable telehealth, including collaborative ...

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