After two years of living with the pandemic, most people are looking forward to going back to normal. What that normal will look like, however, is open for debate. In some areas where businesses have tried to reinstate pre-pandemic norms, like doing away with special shopping hours for seniors, they’ve met with resistance.
It looks like there will be no return to normal as we knew it before. And nowhere is this as evident as in the healthcare industry. Take, for example, the consumer’s new reliance on virtual products, particularly telehealth consultations. In the United States, the popularity of virtual health consultations has increased by 66% since 2019.
The telehealth industry peaked in April of 2020. The sector’s growth has since stabilized, but as of July of 2021, claims are 38 times higher than pre-pandemic levels. This represents a fundamental shift in consumers’ perception of what constitutes a doctor’s appointment.
Medical professionals can now expect to see less crowded waiting rooms in favor of a queue of video appointments. As such, they’ll need to adapt their overall approach to patient care. So what changes might we see in this area?
The Increased Importance of Client Contact
Telehealth opens a wide range of options for the patient. They may now search for a doctor who is outside of their geographical area. While teleconsultations have their limitations, they’re particularly suited to disciplines such as psychiatry or dermatology.
Advances in at-home testing kits may also make it simpler for patients to receive an accurate diagnosis. In addition, doctors may partner with health clinics in those areas where it’s necessary to perform a physical examination to confirm a diagnosis.
The point is that the geographic location of the health professional’s office is no longer a critical factor for people seeking treatment. Doctors must, therefore, find other ways to differentiate their practices or risk losing patients.
Offering outstanding customer service is one way to do so. The old model where a patient waits for hours for a doctor running late will fall by the wayside. Patients will also require more interaction from their health professionals.
To meet the patient’s changing needs, health practitioners will have to think outside the box. Having a professional client call center is one way in which to do so. Doctors may partner with a qualified team of consultants to deliver the outstanding service their patients require.
The team can:
- Handle general queries
- Make appointments
- Send out reminders about appointments
- Sort out billing
- Determine the urgency of appointments
- Proactively reach out to clients to build relationships
The Increased Importance of Data Security
If teleconsultations are so popular, why don’t all patients choose this method? Some people have security concerns, and rightly so. Going forward, healthcare providers who offer teleconsultations will have to take greater care to use a secure mode of communication.
HIPAA Privacy Laws place the burden for information security squarely on the shoulders of the provider. Therefore, practices that offer virtual consultations must partner with a secure video conferencing and service provider.
Partnering up with a third-party provider with higher security capabilities makes good business sense here. However, practice owners should check the provider’s data protection capabilities and track record to ensure a good fit.
The Increased Importance of Diagnostic Technology
In some disciplines, the move over to telehealth is not practical unless there is a change in diagnostic technology. For example, doctors need to assess physical symptoms such as temperature, blood pressure levels and, in some cases, check for levels of chemicals in the blood or urine.
It may prove difficult to accurately diagnose a patient from home if the patient:
- Doesn’t know how to use home test kits correctly
- Attempts to deceive the doctor
- Is unable or unwilling to perform the necessary tests
In many cases, doctors may be unwilling to switch to virtual consultations because an in-person visit provides far more information. During a live visit, the doctor may assess subtle visual cues that may be difficult to pick up during a video call.
To overcome these difficulties, it’ll be essential to identify useful diagnostic tools or alternatives to in-person consultations.
There are still some kinks to work out when it comes to teleconsultations. That said, the practice of the future will need to incorporate them into their business model. Patients will continue to enjoy the convenience of this mode of treatment long after the pandemic is over.