As a small to midsize healthcare practice owner, you’re probably unsure whether you should continue offering extensive telehealth services now that the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down. The answer is yes, especially if you’re a general practitioner or mental healthcare provider.
We expect telemedicine technology to continue evolving by increasing care outcomes and accessibility. General practitioners and mental healthcare providers especially should keep their current telemedicine offerings for the foreseeable future, and even build in some room in their budget for upgrades and expansions over the next five to 10 years so they can attract, treat, and retain as many patients as possible.
After all, according to our 2022 State of Telemedicine Survey[*], an astounding 92% of patients say they’re more likely to go with a doctor who has a telemedicine option over one who doesn’t.
That alone should key you into the fact that telemedicine isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important to look at your tech investments now to see where there might be gaps that you can fill with a more robust offering, or where you might be able to pull back your investment in order to save some money.
Remote patient monitoring will continue to improve chronic care management
As remote patient monitoring devices become more widespread, chronic medical care for patients with diabetes, respiratory problems, and aging patients will improve and lead to patients being able to monitor their own health more closely. In the U.S., more than 60% of U.S. adults have one chronic disease, while 40% of U.S. adults have two or more.
Remote patient monitoring gives your patients greater control over their health outcomes because they have a more holistic view of their health. Often, patients will make an appointment with their general practitioner or a specialist, get a prescription or a list of things to do, and then go about their daily lives.
When remote patient monitoring is involved, they have more consistent access to their health data because they are required to engage with their health plan more frequently. It holds them accountable for their outcomes. Additionally, by engaging with their digital health data directly and frequently, they can see how their individual choices affect their health on a daily basis.
In the past, remote patient monitoring has been done with expensive devices that can be unwieldy and inconvenient to use, such as bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitors or blood glucose monitors.
Now that telehealth and virtual care are becoming more of a priority for medical technology companies, remote patient monitoring is swiftly evolving.
More advanced blood glucose monitors that consistently monitor blood sugar levels for patients with diabetes exist and are in widespread use. Mobile remote patient monitoring apps are making it more convenient for patients to upload data via a mobile portal, and devices are becoming more affordable and less cumbersome to carry.
As patients get more accustomed to entering their own digital health data, and practices grow more accepting of patient-entered data, remote patient monitoring is going to explode into widespread use.
We predict that this trend will continue as more patients and healthcare organizations adopt remote patient monitoring as an effective way to treat aging patients and patients with chronic conditions. After all, the global remote patient monitoring market is tracking to reach $117.1 billion by 2025, compared to $23.2 billion in 2020.
If your practice includes a large percentage of aging patients or patients with chronic conditions, you should invest in remote patient monitoring because you will help increase the health outcomes of your patients. This will help you retain and attract more patients as this technology becomes more widespread and advanced in the coming years.
Technological improvements will provide more patients greater access to healthcare
As virtual care and telemedicine increase in use and the medical tech required for telemedicine continues to evolve, quality specialized medicine will be more accessible for patients—specifically patients in rural areas. Patients in small towns without access to specialists will be able to access healthcare remotely instead of having to make long drives into a city.
Typically, rural areas only have access to family doctors or general practitioners who might not have access or expertise in specialized forms of medicine such as oncology or speech pathology. With this in mind, a patient will typically either drive into the nearest city to seek aid or choose not to deal with their medical issues. Additionally, the possibility of driving to a nearby city might not even be possible for some patients who don’t have convenient access to a vehicle or cannot drive at all.
That’s why the future of telemedicine is bright for healthcare organizations who are willing to invest in the software to market specifically to rural areas. If you’re a specialist who runs a practice in a city and is looking to increase your patient book, you should be investing in more robust telemedicine and virtual care technology as well as marketing to rural communities to increase your number of patients as well as increase your bottom line.
It’s a win-win.
If you want to find out what types of telemedicine devices and technologies can help your practice improve its telehealth offerings, check out What Hardware and Software Are Used for Telemedicine?
Access to quality mental health care will continue to improve
Psychologists and psychiatrists are perhaps most well-suited to make the shift to 100% telehealth appointments because of the nature of their service. Additionally, patients will have greater access to mental health professionals who are right for their specific needs. Much like finding the right primary care physician, patients are, and should be, picky when it comes to finding the right fit for their individual needs.
The same survey on the state of telemedicine found that more often than not, patients who are seeking mental healthcare prefer to use telemedicine. This is not surprising because mental healthcare is particularly well-suited for video conferencing because, generally, no physical exam is required.
That being said, we predict that the number of patients who prefer telemedicine for their mental healthcare will only increase in the coming years. Receiving mental healthcare is becoming more and more common, and finding the right therapist can be a months- or even years-long experience for some patients who are looking to connect with the right person for the right issues.
That’s why telemedicine is so uniquely beneficial for mental healthcare professionals to adopt, because patients will be much more likely to search outside of their area for the professional who they click with. If you’re a mental healthcare professional who only has limited telemedicine offerings, and you are struggling to retain and attract patients, it’s time to increase your budget on technology. All signs are pointing to the fact that the future of mental healthcare is deeply entwined with the future of telemedicine.
The future of telehealthcare is just healthcare
The pandemic forced practices to adopt telemedicine at a much faster rate than anyone expected:
And if the fact that 92% of patients who say they are more likely to choose a practice if they offer telemedicine wasn’t convincing enough, 62% of patients plan to keep using telemedicine post-pandemic.
Telehealth is going to just become health. Virtual care will just be care. Whether technology evolves to the point that even physical exams are done virtually or not, the simple truth is that your practice should be investing in more telemedicine software in order to attract and retain patients.
* Software Advice conducted the 2022 State of Telemedicine Survey in August, 2022 of 1,002 respondents to learn more about telemedicine use and how it has been affected by the pandemic. Screening questions were used to narrow respondents to those with relevant experience with the subject matter.