Telehealth has emerged as a vital and convenient tool for connecting patients with healthcare providers. The forced shutdown of non-urgent health services during the pandemic was pivotal in accelerating the adoption of remote healthcare.
Figures released by the CMS show that over nine million patients used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, patients have shown great interest in the usage of telehealth technologies for after-hours healthcare services.
However, patients also show concern about the fact that the adoption of remote health services might strain the interpersonal relationships they have developed with their caregivers during their in-person visits.
The Reliance on Remote Healthcare Services
Most people who rely on primary healthcare services often suffer limited access to healthcare due to the standard office hours. The regular primary healthcare working hours are not convenient for patients. One might wake up sick and in dire need of medical attention on a Sunday morning. What happens when a patient fractures a bone playing basketball at 10 p.m.?
One Commonwealth-funded study revealed that 51% of adults in the U.S struggle with getting urgent healthcare on weekends and at night. It is, therefore, not surprising that after-hour healthcare is gaining momentum.
In a survey of 300 adults, aged 18 to 38 years, 20% agreed that telehealth was the best solution for after-hours patient care. 37% raised concern that they might lose the personal connection they have built with their care providers if they opt for telehealth services.
Nonetheless, patients appear poised to embrace telehealth as a viable alternative when seeking medical care outside conventional clinic hours. Research shows that about two-thirds of patients are health IT literate and possess the requisite technology to communicate via telehealth.
The Impact of Telemedicine on After-Hours Healthcare
24-hour telemedicine services are the ideal solution to challenges patients encounter outside standard office hours. Some of the reasons why patients frequent urgent care are stomach flu, colds, sore throats, and sinus infections. These are conditions that do not necessitate advanced treatment.
Healthcare providers should leverage telehealth to treat their patients from their homes during weekends and evening hours. The platforms allow patients to bring in their non-urgent healthcare needs any time without visiting the clinic.
Health systems, PCPs, and physician groups who have employed telemedicine as after-hour services have reported high patient retention and higher revenues. This is attributed to the following reasons:
Every patient wants to receive medical care from providers whom they can trust, their primary care providers in most cases. This means they will always feel comfortable around a doctor who knows them best.
A new face at a random urgent healthcare center will not receive that level of trust. This explains why it is vital that every care provider implements after-hours telemedicine services. Doing so will guarantee continuity of care for your patients and will give you a chance you retain your client base and grow your practice revenue.
It is Convenient
Patients rarely book appointments for emergency or urgent healthcare visits. They will just walk in unplanned to explain what happened. Although urgent healthcare centers are accessible past office hours, and on weekends, the patient will still have to visit these centers in person.
On the other hand, a virtual meeting with one’s primary care provider facilitates personal consultation without the patient stepping out of their home.
Helps Saves on Cost
For well-known reasons, urgent healthcare centers are often more expensive than standard appointments. The walk-in appointments model on which urgent care centers are based offers an uncertain payment and collection stream. It often leads to higher healthcare costs for those seeking help.
Most patients are often struggling with high medical deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Unlike urgent care centers, a telehealth visit is more budget-friendly.
Prevents Unnecessary Hospitalizations
After-hours telehealth can help avoid hospital admissions and readmissions.
According to a report published in the American Journal of Managed Care, skilled nursing facilities already offer after-hour telehealth services. One of these facilities applied after-hours telehealth for bedside patient assessments when the PCPs were not on-site.
During these after-hour sessions, physicians worked remotely with the nurses on-site to evaluate fever, shortness of breath, chest pains, and other changes in over 300 patients. 83% of the patients were treated on-site, and 17% avoided hospitalization.
The Primary Features of a Telehealth Platform
Each telemedicine vendor offers distinct features, but the platforms’ workflow is quite similar. The key features of these platforms include:
Video and Audio Conferencing
Video conference calls allow healthcare providers to examine the patient more precisely. In the case of physiotherapy, the caregiver can easily demonstrate the workouts for the patients.
Most telemedicine platforms come with a scheduling feature that allows patients to schedule virtual visits as per the availability of their healthcare providers.
With this feature, doctors can prescribe medications and send a digital copy of the prescription to the patient or their pharmacy of choice. However, some states hold a strictly legal position on prescriptions based on virtual medical examinations. You must check with your local authorities about e-prescriptions for telemedicine.
High-quality telemedicine platforms integrate seamlessly with the electronic health record system. This means that the patients’ medical records are automatically updated on their EHR profiles. It also becomes easier for the provider to check the medical history of their patients before consultations.
This feature allows medical personnel to communicate effectively, supporting instant feedback for better service delivery. In addition, you can also use the feature to communicate with your patients for follow-ups.
HIPPA Compliance Communications
Telemedicine platforms are subject to laws, rules, and regulations governing the protection of patients’ data. The U.S Telemedicine Industry Benchmark report reveals that 79% of healthcare providers prioritize a HIPPA compliant messaging feature for a telehealth platform.
Due to the rising healthcare consumerization, after-hours telehealth is set to become an important and much-needed mode of communication and patient care. This model allows providers to grow practice revenue, retain client-base, and attain a work-life balance.
Due to its flexibility, telemedicine serves as the best solution to distance and time barriers in achieving quality care.