It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, uprooting our daily lives, routines, and expectations. During these uncertain times, we’ve lost more than jobs, missed social gatherings with family and friends, and anxiously waited out city-wide lockdowns. The pandemic impacted millions of people around the world - physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Humans are naturally social, which is why this pandemic has been tough for healthcare providers and patients, especially for mental health management and care in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health shared that nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019). And, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. With strict rules around social distancing and most businesses closed to the public, people had been feeling especially isolated and stuck. The spikes of COVID-19 cases and deaths, paired with the uncertainties around the disease’s spread and cure, only exacerbated mental health concerns. Patients seeking care and consultations outside their homes were putting themselves and others at risk, and appointments were difficult to secure. Actions and steps needed to be taken to support people through these uncertain times.
Through it all, technology emerged to support, redefine, and recreate the healthcare experience. Though telehealth services and applications aren’t new to healthcare, COVID-19 accelerated their growth and adoption in the past year. Virtual appointments have provided access, safety, and positive support to people managing mental health issues during the pandemic.
Telehealth services are transforming the way patients and doctors interact.
Through telehealth methods, mental health patients can easily connect with their doctors and therapists without the pandemic-driven risk, stress, and anxiety of an in-person meeting. These digital experiences empower people by providing equitable access to healthcare that is easier and quicker than ever before.
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Patients and doctors can now save time, because patients don’t have to commute to a doctor’s office or sit in a waiting room, and doctors can see more patients and have better control over their schedules. Removing these time-consuming and stressful steps is helpful for mental health patients who are balancing the anxiety of a global pandemic with the need to seek medical advice and treatment. And, virtual video sessions ensure that patients can see their doctors in the safety and familiarity of their own home. By utilizing telehealth services, mental health patients can safely manage consistent, virtual sessions and appointments with their doctors. As the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, it’s a good feeling to know that you can easily access the care you need without putting yourself or others at risk.
A huge benefit of telehealth services is it makes healthcare access equitable to a wider range of patients and communities.
Anyone with access to a functioning computer and phone can benefit from telehealth services – anytime and anywhere – meaning a doctor’s office is no longer limited to one physical location.
Research from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found telehealth services an effective alternative to conventional mental healthcare:
“Telemental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental illnesses universally. While being comparable to in-person services, telemental health care is particularly advantageous and inexpensive through the use of current technologies and adaptable designs, especially in isolated communities.”
The virtual experience cuts out manual steps, processes, and costs that patients and doctors must complete even for the more basic in-person appointments, such as check-ups, consultations, and therapy sessions. Removing these steps ensures that patients who typically can’t easily go see a doctor can do so without relying on transportation and the time associated with travel to and from appointments. They can meet and talk anywhere with service to a phone or computer. This removes a lot of pressure from the patient, leading to a more productive and focused appointment.
Telehealth application services assure personalized patient care and trust – online and off.
Providers are taking advantage of technology to connect with patients. They’re also leveraging new tech capabilities to capture and track the critical data related to that care. Solutions like Pega Care Management™, which automate a variety of patient record processes and can seamlessly integrate with any telehealth system, are helping make sure patients and their data aren’t slipping through the cracks. For example, on platforms like WebEx and Zoom, virtual appointment video recordings and doctor’s notes can be easily attached to the patient’s file, which are accessible to the patient and doctor at any time. Similarly, tasks such as scheduling a follow-up appointment and reaching out to a pharmacy for prescriptions are simple, automated processes that showcase how smooth the virtual experience can be for both the patient and doctor.
Digital healthcare services are here to stay.
When a patient wants to meet with their doctor or find a new one, telehealth applications and services can provide options quickly, rather than having to wait for weeks or months for an appointment. The digital experience is seamless, from scheduling to the post-appointment processes. Once an appointment is secured, the patient simply needs to log on and join the video session at the scheduled time. The patient and doctor can easily talk over whatever the patient needs, and at the end of the appointment, they simply go on with their day.
Telehealth services are not the end-all solution for every patient and every medical need. But, their impact on appointments and consultations during COVID-19 and beyond is making a significant difference in the patient and doctor experience. Delivering these capabilities for mental health needs and other care requirements is the way of the future, not just a COVID-19 response. The equities they provide are sustainable and long-term, as they are successfully expanding the reach of care providers to more people in more locations. Virtual appointments are here to stay. They are sustainable and will continue to benefit patients and doctors for years to come. Welcome to the new normal!