COVID-19 has caused a huge economic shift with schools and businesses closing, erratic stock market changes, and hospitals and doctors frantically trying to provide healthcare to those in need. With dynamics in society, commerce, education, lifestyle, and healthcare dramatically changing in these tumultuous times, the importance of telecommunications is increasing.
Many companies are quickly awakening to the benefits of telecommunication currently brought forth from the adverse impact of coronavirus and social distancing. As a result, telecommunications enterprise Zoom is hitting peak downloads per day, food delivery companies like Instacart and DoorDash are operating at maximum output, and entertainment services like Netflix and TikTok are seeing a huge influx in hours spent online.
But the entertainment and food delivery industries aren’t the only ones benefiting from the need for in-home, remotely accessible products, and services.
Telehealth services are seeing an unprecedented boom in patient usage. Telehealth not only supports the goals and benefits of social distancing but also allows the medical community to operate at a higher capacity and with increasing patient load.
Last Tuesday, the White House recognized the role telehealth can play in decreasing exposure to COVID-19. The Trump Administration decided to include telehealth services in their insurance coverage for Medicare users, saying, “Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or videoconference at no additional cost, including with commonly used services like FaceTime and Skype.”
Telehealth is an excellent tool in not only helping manage the virus but also providing care to everyone who needs it. Hospitals and care centers that offer telehealth services allow doctors to redirect resources to where they are needed most. Conducting screenings, Q&As, and follow-up appointments online allows the hospital to have a higher capacity and opens up beds, nurses, and equipment which may have previously been used to address a patient. In addition, telemedicine decreases the risk of the virus spreading by allowing patients to remain home and not have to physically visit their doctor. Taking advantage of these things is essential in managing a global pandemic like COVID-19.
Telehealth isn’t just for national epidemics, though. Telemedicine is proven to increase clinical workflows and improve healthcare quality, all while cutting both overhead and individual patient costs. Remote monitoring is a cheap and effective way to follow up with patients while ensuring therapy compliance and improving patient engagement.
Stephen Agboola, MD, of Connected Health, an innovation and IT-focused department of Partners HealthCare, even said that “the evidence supporting the role of telemedicine is strong. Studies have shown that telemedicine promotes continuity of care, decreases the cost of care, and improves patient self-management and overall clinical outcomes.”
However, telehealth doesn’t just benefit hospitals and doctors. There are many advantages for patients besides accessibility who use telemedicine, primarily decreased care costs and greater medical monitoring and oversight.
Conducting appointments with your doctor online means saving time and money by avoiding transportation costs associated with getting to your doctor, and eliminating waiting room wait times. This is especially useful for the elderly or children who rely on others to take them to appointments. Many healthcare associations also offer “on-demand” options where you can request an appointment immediately, adding an additional level of flexibility that appeals to many.
Mental health is yet another sector benefitting from the rise in telemedicine. People rely on their therapists most during high-stress situations and issues arising from financial crises, sick loved ones, possible lay-offs, food shortages, and quarantines definitely increase anxiety. Fortunately, many mental health institutions are offering video conferencing so individuals can still engage with someone, even during shelter-in-place orders.
Richard Bakalar, MD, a managing director at KPMG and a member of the firm’s Global Healthcare Center of Excellence explained that “telehealth is rapidly evolving beyond urgent care and is increasingly used for follow up visits and helping chronically ill patients connect with their doctor online.” Telehealth is an ever-expanding market and the ease of use and accessibility videoconferencing offers is only complemented by its success in patient engagement.
While many businesses are rushing to develop online material in the wake of COVID-19, Somnology has successfully utilized sleep telemedicine services over the past few years with notable efficacy for the benefit of our patients, especially within the Veteran’s Association. Somnology’s Sleep Lab as a Service platform, better known as SLaaS®, pairs patients with Somnology’s sleep coaches for telehealth consultations to discuss their sleep health. Somnology’s implementation of telehealth has empowered our patients to speak directly with confidentiality with our sleep coaches enabling them to gain valuable advice regarding how to improve their sleep disorders.
For more information on how Somnology’s telehealth program can benefit you, contact Brian Yam at bkyam@SomnologyMD.com.