The power of telehealth is undeniable. We’ve all seen first-hand the access that is possible even in the most difficult situations when virtual care is employed. Extending your practice’s care reach with telehealth enables you to reach new patient populations and help overcome barriers to care that can cause restricted access.
Common Barriers to Care
There are many reasons patients may have difficulty accessing care. First are limited office hours and appointment availability. Many medical practices operate between the hours of 8AM and 6PM, Monday through Friday. This is not convenient for working adults or patients who have children, as they often have commitments during those hours.
Second, there are provider shortages in certain geographic areas. Rural areas typically have fewer providers compared to urban and suburban areas. This is particularly troubling, as according to Statista, about 57 million Americans live in rural areas as of 2020. These individuals are faced with limited local providers or the need to travel long distances for care. Additionally, some lower-income urban areas have a limited number of providers, creating another barrier to accessing care.
Third is the issue of inadequate transportation. Some patients can’t drive, while others have financial struggles that make transportation difficult. According to AHA statistics, roughly 3.5 million patients go without needed medical care because of transportation difficulties.
Finally, there is the issue of rising healthcare costs. Between high-deductible health plans, often with high premiums, and uninsured or underinsured patients, cost has the potential to be a huge barrier to care. Many patients find themselves facing difficult decisions surrounding basic care, and often healthcare is neglected to meet other needs.
How Telehealth Positions Providers to Overcome Barriers to Care
For each barrier of care, telehealth can make a difference. When office hours and appointment availability are a concern, telehealth can ease the burden by allowing for an appointment that is less disruptive to the patient’s day. When the need for travel to and from the doctor’s office is removed, the patient will require less time missed from work, and may not even need to schedule childcare. Additionally, many telehealth appointments are offered outside of regular business hours, providing even more opportunity for convenient care.
For patients living in underserved areas, telehealth enables greater access to care by removing the geographical barrier. These individuals can now see a provider from the comfort of their own home or perhaps at a local clinic with a telediagnostics setup. Either way, the travel component is reduced and the care they need is made available.
Transportation concerns are also eased with the use of telehealth. Again, accessing care from home or from a local clinic reduces the need for transportation and allows more patients to have convenient access to adequate care.
Finally, telehealth eases the cost burden in a number of ways. First, by allowing for better efficiency and management of chronic conditions, telehealth reduces care costs overall which ultimately benefits individual patients. Second, by reducing the need for hospital admissions, telehealth prevents costly medical bills that many patients can’t afford. And finally, as patients who receive virtual care don’t have to miss as much work, pay for childcare, or incur travel expenses, they are also likely to feel some immediate cost relief.
Features to Look for In a Telehealth Application
In order for your practice to be able to connect with these patients and ease the barriers to care, you will need to implement a strong telehealth application. First, make sure to find an application that integrates well with your existing software. Ideally, you want to be able to access everything you need through the same interface as much as possible.
Second, choose an application with a user-friendly design. Telehealth is meant to be about convenience, and difficult software takes away from the experience. Choose an application that’s easy to use, not only for providers and other staff members, but also for patients with varying levels of technological skill.
Third, look for a vendor who offers data analytics in their application. This is important so that you can track performance and gain insight into how your telehealth program is being received and identity areas for improvement.
Finally, to take your virtual care to the next level, choose a product that features telediagnostics. This allows providers to check vital signs, view a patient’s ears, nose, and throat, and even conduct electrocardiograms and ultrasounds virtually. Nearly everything a patient might expect from an in-person visit can be performed remotely. This not only provides better care, but also a higher level of care, allowing for greater reimbursement.
Telehealth makes it possible to extend your care reach like never before, increasing care access for underserved communities. This leads to better outcomes and a healthier population overall. At SolutionsHub, we want to help your practice reach these new populations, which is why we offer best in class telehealth solutions.