By George Kramb
More people than ever before are turning to telehealth visits to meet their healthcare needs. Innovative platforms like PatientPartner are rewriting the patient-physician narrative, especially during the pandemic.
There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown has changed life as we know it, possibly forever. The way we consume media, buy groceries, go to school, and spend time with our families has been radically altered. Even with vaccines rolling out and aspects of daily living returning to some semblance of normalcy, we have learned to adapt to the need to stay home. Many of those adaptations are here to stay.
From March to mid-April of 2020, the early weeks of the pandemic, consumers, workers, and students all shifted their lives and needs to online services. Healthcare was no exception. According to federal data, Medicare claims alone for telehealth visits jumped 11,000 percent in the first month of the shutdown. Medicare issued waivers to their normal telehealth restrictions, allowing for greater access. Studies conducted early in the pandemic showed that over 16 million Americans utilized telehealth, sometimes for the first time.
Telehealth is having its moment in the sun when it is needed the most. For over a year, people were working from home, many times side by side with their children attempting to learn remotely, and the patient-doctor relationship was in jeopardy. Schedules, concerns about safety, and the overburdened medical facilities all contributed to a lack of connection with physicians by patients. Telehealth was able to bridge that gap, allowing relationships to continue unfettered and care to be accessed promptly.
The COVID-19 shutdown forced everyone to find connection, education, and compassion in new ways. While working alongside surgeons in the medical equipment field, I was able to witness first-hand the importance of not only a strong patient-physician relationship but open lines of communication. I saw the hesitancy and sometimes fear of preoperative patients up close. These patients were often reserved before their procedures. The questions came after surgery: Is this normal? Am I healing correctly? Should I feel this way?
The need for patient support was evident. The burden of offering this support fell squarely on the shoulders of the physicians, who often had a roster of hundreds of patients they were servicing. In addition, there could be a disconnect between the clinical bedside manner of the surgeon and the patient who needed plain-spoken support to ease their preoperative concerns.
PatientPartner was born out of the clear need for better patient support not only from their surgeon but from someone who has “been there”, other patients. The ability of telehealth to bring people together who might have otherwise never met is the bedrock of PatientPartner’s mission.
PatientPartner’s service model is simple: connect preoperative and postoperative patients with ‘mentors’ who have been through the same medical procedure. In addition, give them access to physicians who see a value in connecting patients and improving the patient experience.
The service connects you with a mentor based on location, age, gender, and procedure type. The mentor uses the PatientPartner platform to offer the insight and support they wish they had received when they experienced the procedure. To date, PatientPartner offers over 200 mentors ready to volunteer their time to help patients readying themselves for or recovering from surgery.
The mentors can share critical information that sometimes can only hit home if coming from a person who has “been there”. Services like PatientPartner seek to solve the issue of patient isolation and fear, which has exponentially grown in the shadow of the pandemic.
It’s clear from a statistical standpoint that people are ready to utilize telehealth. It reduces gaps in care and allows for consistent care for chronic conditions. Platforms like PatientPartner take that model a step further to address the relationship and connection aspect of healthcare. It keeps the need for human connection and commiseration alive, even when we have to be apart. Telehealth is here to stay and will likely just get more intuitive and advanced. Continuing to bring forth ideas that keep the human connection element working in tandem with technological advancements can only make healthcare better and more accessible.
George Kramb is the CEO of PatientPartner, a platform that connects pre-surgical patients with people who have already had the same procedure. With a background in healthcare working with medical device companies, he has assisted surgeons through hundreds of operations using medical machinery. He is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Consumer Technology.