Telehealth offers Americans a safe and convenient medical care option amid pandemic

American life has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States and the world. While it created some uncomfortable changes, like wearing face masks and staying six feet apart in public, it has also spurred necessary innovative ideas. These ideas and technological advancements have improved Americans’ quality of life as they adjust to this “new normal.” One such expansion has been in telehealth use – giving people more choices in how they receive medical care.

Telehealth is the practice of caring for patients through telephone, video or chat when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. With the novel coronavirus spreading so rapidly across the country, it became vital for healthcare providers to offer safe alternatives to in-person office visits – with its ease in application and convenience to patients – telehealth quickly became that solution.

Although telehealth options have been available for decades, the practice’s adoption on a nation-wide scale was slow for several reasons. Policy and regulatory barriers were huge roadblocks against provider and patient comfortability with telehealth options, as were general reluctance from all parties to bring healthcare fully into the digital age. The need, exacerbated by the pandemic, weighed heavily onto those barriers until they shattered and brought this practice to the forefront of healthcare.

“[Telehealth] went from ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must-have’ strategic priority for providers,” according to a study published in September 2020 by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (Building and Growing a Sustainable Telehealth Program in Your Practice). “In March 2020, only 13 percent of AAFP members had provided video or telephone visits to their patients. By May 2020, 94 percent of members were regularly doing so, aided by sweeping temporary policy changes that brought down many of the regulatory and reimbursement barriers that had inhibited telehealth growth for years. By spring 2020, physicians across the country achieved years of progress in a matter of weeks.”

When the barriers to telehealth came down, it not only opened use for family and general practices, but it also paved the way for use in specialty care practices such as pediatrics, dermatology, and behavioral and mental health.

“Telehealth provided us the ability to provide mental health services at a time when our patients needed it the most,” said Dr. Tommie Richardson of Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals. “Our patients have been very enthusiastic about connecting with us through these technologies.”

While telehealth has been a huge win for physicians, it has also provided great benefits to patients. Patients now have the ability to seek care safely and conveniently from the comfort of their homes. Typically, with just a telephone or a device with a Wi-Fi connection.

“My job offered free telehealth service to its employees. So, when I had a health issue, I decided to give it a try,” said Kris Kopecki. “It was fast and easy getting on with the doctor. During the appointment, I explained my issue and my symptoms. In a short time, the doctor was able to diagnose my condition and called in a prescription. It saved gas and time. I will definitely use this service again in the future.”

While the pandemic has brought about many hardships in American life, looking at the “bigger picture,” it has also led to ingenuity and growth in many areas, especially healthcare – putting a spotlight on telehealth with its benefits and ability to serve people now and in the future. In time, the vaccine will be available to all Americans, and the COVID-19 virus will be eradicated. Yet, telehealth will remain and flourish as a pillar in our healthcare community for years to come.

With so much uncertainty and change in the world, we salute the industries that are taking extra steps to serve others and shift away from their typical business model to positively impact their fellow man.

We encourage you to support these innovations, serve others, and make a difference. Contact the Acorn+Arrow team to see how we can partner on an innovative that you’ve been thinking about.

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