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Redefining Patient Engagement: Telehealth

Image of Jessica Shaw
Jessica Shaw

As of early March, telehealth has become the new alternative method of healthcare delivery and has accounted for a majority of patient visits during the beginning of this year. With the adoption of telehealth services becoming more common in late February, it wasn’t until mid April that an overwhelming influx of telehealth visits were scheduled. However, recent studies show a gradual decline in telehealth visits near the end of May, resulting in a significant drop off in June and now July. While certain medical specialties such as dermatology and rheumatology have seen a resurgence of in-person visits, others, particularly physical therapy, pulmonology and some surgical specialties have been most affected by the pandemic and are still seeing in-clinic visit rates below the baseline. This means that for some healthcare providers, telehealth solutions, as of now, are their primary resource to continue caring for their patients. That is why we wanted to list a few different types of telehealth and their benefits in addition to offering some strategic insights of implementing virtual care. 

Types of Telehealth

There are three main types of telehealth which include:

  1. real time, interactive services via digital chat platforms (video or e-visit)
  2. advanced patient engagement through remote monitoring technology 
  3. store-and-forward content which involves electronically transmitting clinical information such as patient demographics, insurance claims, payor information etc. 

Benefits and Strategies of Telehealth

Reduced Risk of Exposure 

While this may seem obvious, telehealth not only helps prevent unnecessary patient-provider contact but it also aids in initiating limited capacity regulations for patients who absolutely do require in-clinic care. It is important to remember that by stacking your schedule in order to appropriately accommodate for patients who have to come in, you should also advocate for telehealth appointments when available so that you can best enforce social distancing precautions. 

Patient Satisfaction

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, so do the needs and standards of patient care. Since the pandemic, medical providers have had to overcome challenges of accommodating patient comfort levels, addressing their health concerns and consistently reassuring them of their safety. However, with telehealth, patients have the flexibility to schedule appointments from the comfort of their own home, in turn reducing commute costs, increasing practice revenue with less no shows and cancellations as well as streamlining the patient intake process.

Expanded Access

COVID-19 has not only negatively impacted practices but it has also influenced patient behavior. As society becomes more and more cautious with efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, patients with chronic conditions, children who need vaccines and elderly populations with regularly scheduled treatments are at risk because of their limited access to healthcare services. Rather than have telehealth replace traditional healthcare delivery, it is meant to enhance patient-provider relationships as well as improve the quality of care through innovative education and engagement. 

Sources:

Partnered with Harvard University and Phreesia, a healthcare software company, the Commonwealth Fund has released their analysis on visit volume changes over the spans of more than 50,000 medical providers during these past few months of COVID-19. You can access their full medical data hub by clicking here

In reference to Raintree’s own internal data - BI reports showcase the steady decline in telehealth visits over the course of the beginning of the year, with June seeing a large in-clinic visit increase while telehealth appointments went from 7,528 to 2,519 in July. 


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