November 2, 2020
The “new normal” for our client meetings has been Zoom calls from the comfort of our own homes. While it took some getting used to, many clients have begun to appreciate the convenience of seeing our faces (unmasked) while safely keeping their distance. Not meeting in our office has additional benefits for our clients, such as skipping Atlanta traffic and not feeling under-dressed seeing Nick in his three-piece suit. Just as we have had to adapt to changing circumstances during this global pandemic, the healthcare industry has implemented similar telecommunication technologies.
Consumers are accustomed to high levels of convenience in all aspects of life, but healthcare has been behind other service industries in providing this convenience. While telemedicine platforms have been around for years, expanded regulatory freedom to use these methods during the pandemic, as well as providing greater access to coverage and reimbursement for these services by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), have led hospitals nationwide to rapidly enhance their telehealth capabilities. A recent report by research firm Arizton revealed that over 75% of U.S. hospitals are now connecting with patients remotely using video, audio, chat, e-mail, and other technologies.
Adapting quickly to the changing environment is especially important in the healthcare industry because patients will simply switch providers if their current one is not offering adequate telehealth services. As patients become more accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, hospitals that fail to adapt will likely see a decline in revenue. The American Hospital Association estimated that U.S. Hospitals lost an estimated $202.6 billion from March to June, alone. Now and in the future, telemedicine may help safeguard against future reductions in the demand for traditional healthcare services.
Many benefits and efficiencies have blossomed from the boom in telemedicine. In this article published by modernhealthcare.com Atlanta Neurologist, Dr. Jeffrey English, predicts “There will be specialty centers where hospitals can call in and have 24/7 access to a network of physicians who are experts in their specialty areas.” With instant access to a wide range of physician specialists, these facilities can offer patients expanded access to focused care. In turn, this would improve the overall patient experience and reduce the cost of hiring full-time staff on-site. To further illustrate, Dr. English states “Previously doctors would tell a patient, ‘You need to see a neurologist. Here’s the number.’ Now, the doctor can say ‘You need to see a neurologist, let’s connect with one now.’”
As technology innovations change healthcare and patient expectations, preparation becomes more critical. “With patients becoming accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to go back. The box is open,” noted Dr. English. Telemedicine is here to stay, and adapting will be critical for the success of hospitals and healthcare companies. It has been fascinating watching companies across many different industries innovate during the pandemic. I am even more interested to see what changes will remain and what life will look like post-pandemic.