Telehealth has become increasingly more common in healthcare. In spring of 2020, there was a huge spike in telehealth visits. This number decreased by mid-2021, but usage rates were still 38 times higher than pre-COVID levels. This is because a lot of patients like virtual visits. In a survey, 79% of patients said they were satisfied with their care during their last telehealth appointment, and 73% said they would continue using telehealth services in the future.
So, why do patients like telehealth? And does it have any advantages for clinicians and healthcare organizations? Keep reading to learn about five benefits of telehealth services for everyone in healthcare.
Benefits of Telehealth
One major benefit of telehealth is increased flexibility. Patients can schedule appointments after hours or during lunch (or other) breaks instead of taking full or half days off from work to go to in-person appointments. For patients with PTO, this means they can actually use their vacation time for rest and relaxation. For those who take unpaid time off, this means they don’t need to miss out on wages for the day.
Telehealth also offers increased flexibility for physicians. One survey found that 63.6% of physicians have conducted at least some telehealth visits from their home. This flexibility can help physicians improve their work environment. In a survey, over half of physicians agreed or strongly agreed that telehealth improved the satisfaction of their work.
Reduces Patient Costs
Costs associated with going to in-person appointments add up and contribute to the already-increasing costs of care for patients. Telehealth can reduce some of these costs for patients. A study that looked at data from five University of California healthcare systems over the first two years of the pandemic estimated that telehealth saved over $33 million in travel costs for patients. A similar study of appointments for non elderly patients with cancer found that telehealth visits saved patients on average from $147.40 to $186.10 per visit.
Cost is a big concern for many patients. A 2022 poll found that 71% of Americans are somewhat or very worried about affording gas and other transportation costs. In addition to transportation costs, going to an in-person appointment may mean taking unpaid time off work or paying for childcare during the appointment time. By reducing these costs associated with going to in-person appointments, telehealth can make care more realistic and affordable for patients.
Improves Access to Care
Telehealth has great potential to improve timely access to care. Over 60% of areas designated as primary care shortage areas are in rural parts of the country. Rural areas also see shortages of specialists. 6% of all OB/GYNs serve rural communities, even though 14% of the population resides there. This means patients may need to wait months or travel hours to see a clinician. In addition to care shortages, transportation can also be a barrier to care. Some people do not have access to a vehicle or public transportation, or they cannot afford to pay for transportation.
This is where telehealth comes in. 85% of US adults own a smartphone. Telehealth would allow patients to receive care from physicians or other specialists that may live thousands of miles away, right from their own home. And while limited broadband is a concern, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has implemented a plan – with substantial funding – to increase access to high speed internet across the country.
Offers High Quality Care
Telemedicine offers high quality care for patients. In a survey, 89% of physicians agreed or strongly agreed that telehealth allows them to deliver quality care for chronic disease management and care coordination. Research shows that 75% of physicians said telehealth allowed them to deliver high-quality care, and over 70% were motivated to increase their use of these services.
Patients also believe telehealth care is top notch. In a survey, around 60% of patients and clinicians reported no difference in the visit quality when comparing virtual and in-office visits. Another survey found that during recent telehealth visits, 81% of patients thought their provider was thorough, 83% said the quality of the communication was good, and 84% were confident their information was secure and private.
Helps Manage Healthcare Costs
Telehealth can help organizations manage costs. As reimbursement becomes more focused on value-based care, telehealth has the potential to help clinicians maintain low cost and high quality care. For example, clinicians can use virtual visits to help patients manage chronic conditions.
Telehealth can also help reduce unnecessary healthcare costs. Kaiser Permanente uses a 24/7 video health center to help reduce ER visits for non-urgent problems, saying telehealth physicians can solve the problem around 60% of the time. This helps patients go to the appropriate place for care and reduces unnecessary costs.
Telehealth has the potential to improve healthcare for everyone involved. While there are still barriers to address – such as low reimbursement and inadequate technology for virtual care – expanding telehealth can be beneficial for all.
Are you a clinician or an organization that wants to improve technology for virtual visits? Check out our 5 Tools To Start Creating Your Remote Tech Stack guide for tips on getting started.