Telehealth: Is the Future of Healthcare Virtual?
By Amelia Seraiah Director, Global Solutions, KellyOCG
Your child is at home on the couch. They have a fever and don’t want to do anything (except maybe lounge around and watch some cartoons). Sure, they probably have a virus and will most likely feel fine in a couple of days, but that doesn’t stop you worrying. You need to run over to the pediatrician to get everything checked out. This normally means hustling for a same-day appointment, dragging a grumpy kid across town, and spreading their germs to everyone in the waiting room. What if there was a better way to get the care they needed from home?
This is just one of the challenges that telehealth can meet. From worried parents to patients with reduced mobility and busy professionals who don’t have time to get to the doctor’s office, telehealth and telemedicine can be game-changing for patients and caregivers.
I take a look at the world of virtual healthcare and what this means for patients, providers, and workers, below.
What is Telehealth?
The World Health Organization describes telehealth as care that “involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver healthcare outside of traditional healthcare facilities.” You may hear it used in the same breath as telemedicine and virtual healthcare, although each term has a slightly different meaning. Telemedicine refers more generally to the concept of providing medical care from a distance, while virtual healthcare concerns the ways that medical providers communicate with their patients through services like live video, audio, and instant messenger.
Essentially, telehealth, telemedicine, and virtual healthcare are all linked to providing support and treatment outside of a standard medical facility. These types of care are supported by a wide range of technology and services, from video calling to the use of wearable health monitors.
Who Does Virtual and Remote Healthcare Benefit?
For patients, telehealth substantially improves access to care, improves engagement, and boosts satisfaction levels. Allowing patients without access to transport or those who live in isolated locations to access life-changing medical support. A recent study found that telemedicine resulted in 38% fewer hospital admissions and higher levels of patient engagement. The reduction in costs that accompanies remote care can also mean a substantial saving for providers and patients. One study identified a 19% reduction in costs associated with remote care for the elderly.
Providers who are prepared to leverage the latest telehealth tools can enjoy significant benefits. Not only can they offer a higher level of care and flexibility, they can also engage with greater numbers of patients and organize their resources more efficiently. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that telehealth can boost hospital performance. A recent review of the top 100 US hospitals, by IBM Watson Health and the American Telemedicine Association, found a strong correlation between performance and telehealth adoption.
What Does the Shift Towards Telehealth Mean for Talent Management?
Telehealth isn’t reducing the number of skilled workers that hospitals and healthcare organizations need to operate smoothly, but it is transforming some of the skills they require to keep up with the competition. Remote technology and intelligent diagnostic tools are now essential to modern healthcare, and those with the skills to build and maintain this sophisticated tech are in high demand. The rise in use of telemetry tools and health monitors is also fuelling a need for data and analytics experts, as preventative medicine becomes increasingly important to an aging population.
In a talent-short market, the rising numbers of nurses, doctors, and technical experts needed to effectively manage a complex and wide-reaching telehealth system can appear challenging. However, with remote talent playing an ever-more important role in telemedicine, healthcare organizations may find themselves widening their talent pool to access expertise across geographical boundaries. Simply, healthcare organizations have to ensure their talent strategy aligns with the evolving nature of how they communicate with, diagnose, and treat patients.
Telehealth has transformed healthcare and it’s here to stay. This means that early adopters have the opportunity to not only improve patient experience and access to care but to outperform slow-moving competition. The future of healthcare is virtual, so make sure you don’t get left behind.