Technology has helped to make the world customizable, easy, and accessible. Car services can be ordered anywhere in the world with the touch of a button, food can be delivered without ever making a phone call and video conferencing connects people from across the globe, all at your fingertips.
2020 has seen even more technological advances. When COVID-19 shook the world, day to day business had to be re-imagined. Many were forced to use technology to work remotely, talk remotely, and even be diagnosed remotely. Specifically speaking to the healthcare industry, face to face necessity, such as seeing a doctor, going in for a check-up, or talking with a mental health professional, had to pivot quickly as the world implemented shelter in place policies. Will traditional healthcare methods ever be the same or will technology usher in a virtual future?
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, emergency department volume is down nearly 50% as the United States struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic. Society views hospitals as places to be avoided, even for other treatable ailments. Smaller physician practices and local hospital branches are also viewed as infectious areas that are of high risk, specifically if individuals have an underlying condition.
This common presumption creates an environment where smaller medical issues are not being addressed due to fear of infection while waiting to see a physician. And because we know smaller medical problems can turn into severe emergencies, this could be dangerous.
How do we make it safe for individuals to get much needed care both physically and mentally when in person visits are no longer perceived as the safest option?
To answer our earlier question – we do believe traditional healthcare methods have been forever changed with telehealth.
“Telehealth serves a crucial role in connecting individuals to needed healthcare resources,” says MyAdvisor President Jennifer Christman, “In light of COVID-19, this technology proves to build a bridge to safe, accessible, and affordable options for patients. Mental and physical health are of the upmost importance, specifically in an ongoing crisis. Telehealth is how we keep people healthy.”
The “hospital in your home” method also applies to mental health. With the additional stress of COVID-19 on every industry and household, mental health providers can use telehealth to talk privately, securely, and at any time, with patients. 21 states have lifted the restrictions of using Medicaid for telehealth. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services have also expanded telehealth services so patients have more flexibility to use telehealth directly in the home.
At MyAdvisor, our focus has always been mental health. In 2007, we started working with military Veterans, many of whom felt the stigma associated with PTSD and other brain injuries. With a desire to help these men and women, we designed technology to offer safe and secure mental health services before the 2020 telehealth boom.
Over the years, we’ve realized telehealth has proven it can keep up with the demand of patient need – maybe even more so than a traditional waiting room. We’ve found success through three technology solutions: automation, triage and centralized coordination points.
With more automated options, including bots and technological work-flows, telehealth has proven that it can keep up with the demand of patient need.
A triage model provides for rapid initial evaluations that can be connected easily and accessibly with the next step or provider.
Centralized coordination point
Creating a centralized coordination and evaluation point, allows for patients to mitigate smaller questions and problems without needing in-person evaluation.
Despite these technological advances, we know barriers still remain including accessibility, reimbursement and provider credentialing per state. However, telehealth offers a solution to the problem we addressed earlier: fear of waiting rooms. Now, patients have medical options where infrastructure remains intact and clinicals are available at a safe distance. It is virtually perfect.