How Telehealth Technology is Transforming the Future of Healthcare

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telemedicine and covid

By Travis Fawcett, Vice President of Software Engineering at AristaMD

Telehealth improves outcomes by improving the way in which we deliver care. Secure technology allows healthcare organizations to allocate resources, improve processes, and open channels of communication in unprecedented ways.

Through most of 2020, the pandemic caused radical shifts in almost every aspect of daily life. After more than a year of disruption, we’re all looking forward to some semblance of normalcy. Yet, even as vaccines are administered, some pandemic-motivated changes are here to stay because their value is clear.

Telehealth is transforming healthcare and shaping the future of care delivery by:

  • Using AI to facilitate front door triage.
  • Using video for low acuity primary care provider visits.
  • Tapping into eConsults for complex issues where a specialist needs to weigh-in.
  • Using patient-to-doctor messaging for follow-up.

Telehealth tools connect patients to the right resources at the right time and in the right place. They benefit patients by addressing issues that predate COVID-19, like long wait times, specialist shortages, and rising healthcare costs.

Telehealth accelerates and evolves amid COVID-19

For years, the U.S. healthcare industry struggled to solve serious problems. The most pressing issues included provider shortages, months-long wait times to see a specialist, and rising costs for both patients and healthcare organizations.

The pandemic worsened these problems and created a crisis of both availability and accessibility of care. Healthcare systems and their patients needed an immediate solution that could help address pre-existing problems as well as pandemic and post-pandemic demand for patient care. 

Innovative solutions evolved to address many problems. HealthTech improved the ability of payors and health systems to provide efficient and safe care. Video conferencing software enabled providers to care for low-acuity patients while reducing unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus. eConsults empowered general practitioners and family practice physicians to care for their patients without additional appointments—optimizing ever-lengthening specialist queues and avoiding unnecessary face-to-face specialist visits.

More than a phase

Is the adoption of telehealth fleeting, or does it signal a long-term change in how care is delivered and where care can be accessed? Clear benefits, particularly in terms of patient outcomes, signal a continued need for telehealth, even as the pandemic abates. In a broad sense, telehealth improves outcomes by improving the way we deliver care. 

Telehealth tools better allocate resources, like specialists, and open channels of communication in new and unprecedented ways. Increased access to specialists and improved communication drives better health outcomes and reduces costs at all levels of the healthcare system through greater efficiency. 

For example, eConsults allow general practitioners to care for patients with low-acuity common conditions that, in the past, were frequently referred to specialists. Empowering primary care providers to operate at the top of their license allows patients to have their needs addressed faster, reducing avoidable ED visits and hospitalizations that can occur when patients have to wait too long to be seen by a specialist. This ultimately improves outcomes and overall patient satisfaction.

These benefits clearly serve the needs of a healthcare industry that weathered numerous challenges over the past several decades. The long-term benefits of telehealth adoption aren’t lost on the American public. A growing body of data shows that patients are becoming more familiar—and comfortable—with the use of telehealth. 

In their 2020 State of Telemedicine Report, Doximity reports:

  • 57% increase in the number of Americans who participated in at least one telemedicine visit.
  • 23% of patients say they will opt for telemedicine after the pandemic ends.
  • 27% of patients say they feel more comfortable with telemedicine.

Physicians are also onboard with telehealth. From 2019 to 2020, the number of physicians reporting telehealth as a skill increased by 38%. Greater access to specialist input has proven invaluable for primary care physicians. Improved access to specialists via telehealth technologies, like eConsults, can even help boost provider satisfaction and mitigate burnout.

Telehealth is here to stay

Through innovative healthcare technologies, the industry is entering a new, exciting chapter of care delivery. Telehealth presents a unique opportunity to provide the best care possible for every patient regardless of their location. 

As the pandemic subsides, the healthcare industry is left with all the challenges it faced before COVID-19 arrived. Issues, like substantial appointment wait times to see specialists, are likely to worsen as patients seek care once more. The use of telehealth is a way primary care providers can expedite care for patients in need of specialist care. 

The past year was a clear tipping point for healthcare innovation, driving healthcare organizations to pivot in the face of enormous challenges. Healthcare organizations have showcased their ability to quickly bring solutions to patients that improve care. 

As we confront pre-existing healthcare challenges and post-pandemic hurdles, we will need to maintain this organization-wide drive to provide the best care for patients. Telehealth is continually transforming healthcare and shaping the future. It’s clear that telehealth and related technologies are a major part of the solution moving forward.

Travis Fawcett, Vice President of Software Engineering at AristaMD, the leading eConsult platform that provides a telehealth solution to primary care providers with the ability to conduct electronic consults, also known as eConsults, to collaborate with a board-certified panel of on-call specialists. Travis brings over 18 years of experience managing and architecting software engineering projects. Travis has built scalable software in multiple industries including telecommunications, marketing, biotechnology, life sciences, and healthcare. He has extensive experience in the software development lifecycle, IT infrastructure management, risk management of software deployments, cloud architecture, HL7, and developing high-performing software engineering teams. Travis is an active participant in the local technology community as a contributor, thought leader and has been a featured presenter in many areas of software development.