Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, the common public has been scurrying to find ways to cope. All sectors of the economy, from communications to tourism, have been hard hit. However, the healthcare industry by far has witnessed the most significant amount of work overload in probably the past decade. During these trying times, technological advancements in medicine allowed professionals and consultants to function effectively and safely.
Telemedicine is not a contemporary concept. But, since its advent, it is only now that it has come to center stage. Telemedicine, in crude terms, is employing software and electronics to facilitate healthcare. It includes services like remote diagnosis and encrypted consultations, among other things. According to various sources, Telemedicine in Canada has been highlighted as one of the most effective forms of healthcare here and around the globe. With 70% of issues seen in traditional doctor’s offices and clinics now being conveniently and effectively treated through Telemedicine instead, this innovative form of healthcare is more popular now than ever before – and this is just the beginning.
Healthcare has never been more pivotal, and its disposal to the public is now evolving. The people, too, have moved on from their conservative attitudes. According to various surveys conducted by the prestigious Canadian Medical Association, 91% of users were satisfied by their virtual healthcare facilities and telemedicine in Canada. Moreover, 46% of the users claimed that a video consultation would be their preferred first point of contact. As the first wave hit Canada, records have shown a decline in emergency room visits. There has been an evident strain on the healthcare community, with cancelled appointments creating a cumbersome backlog.
However, since the community started pushing Telemedicine and doctor consultations from home as an equally viable alternative, there has been an ascent from approximately 1.4 million virtual visits over the 2019-20 fiscal year to about 2.8 million patients virtually over the 2020-21 budgetary period through the government-funded Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), which primarily employs video conferencing methods. A 36% growth in virtual healthcare was recorded in Ontario alone.
A study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal also recorded a substantial decline of 80% in-office visits and an increase in virtual physician visits by 56% between March and July of 2020.
What people want from Telemedicine
A recent study conducted by Environics research has studied the attitude of the Canadian public towards virtual healthcare and Telemedicine in Canada. It also conceptualized the kind of services and salient benefits they expect from Telemedicine and their respective providers. They are:
- Increased Accessibility: They expect flexible hours and user-friendly models to increase available accessibility to healthcare.
- Consultation Procedure: Ambiguity regarding booking appointments and their conduction via various available mediums of video, call, etc., should be specified.
- Helps navigate the healthcare system: tools or guidance on finding lab centers or specialists when needed
- Easy access to mental health facilities: flexible mental health support from self-guided resources to quick access to mental health professionals
- Appointment timing: It is defined by schedule based on user availability more than specialists’ availability.
- Follow-ups: consultations are accompanied by a follow-up, even for referrals (i.e., blood test, an appointment with a specialist) to ensure members are getting the care they need
- When selecting your telemedicine provider, it’s key to ensure that all these attributes are included in the provider’s offering. After all, you want to give your employees health benefits that they will want to use.
Benefits Of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has an apparent number of pros in numerous contexts regarding healthcare disposal. Patient care is always the prime concern while facilitating developments in the healthcare industry. Telemedicine is one such development that gives back a lot more to its patients than it’s given credit for. Some of its beneficial patient features are:
- Encouraging patients to manage their health better.
- Decreasing wait/travel time to/from appointments and reducing outpatient bureaucracy.
- Reducing hospitalizations and healthcare costs by cutting tangible access points and only covering service chargers.
- It is reducing emergency room visits, severe illnesses, and death.
- In many rural or remote places, or post-disaster situations, consistent healthcare is unavailable. Telemedicine can be applied in such areas or conditions to provide emergency healthcare.
- This system is helpful for patients residing in inaccessible areas or isolated regions. Patients can receive clinical healthcare from their homes without arduous travel to the hospital.
- Telemedicine has enabled easy information sharing and discussion about critical medical cases among healthcare professionals from multiple locations within an insignificant amount of time.
- This system also facilitates health education, as the primary level healthcare professionals can observe the working procedure of healthcare experts in their respective fields, and the experts can supervise the works of the novice.
- It eliminates any possibility of transmitting infectious diseases between patients and healthcare professionals.
- Reducing embarrassment and fear associated with in-person doctor visits.
- Ease in management and storage of online prescriptions.
Thus, among the minor, almost insignificant disadvantages Telemedicine has, the pros clearly trump the argument. Its benefits to patients and even employees, including declining absenteeism, make it a worthy substitute for offline, in-person healthcare.
Future of Telemedicine
Telemedicine can provide a compelling alternative or a partial substitute to conventional acute, chronic and preventive care. It can drastically improve clinical outcomes. In the modern industrialized world, it is highly likely that Telemedicine will accelerate the shift of medicine from clinics and hospitals to homes. In several developing nations lacking adequate infrastructure, Telemedicine will mainly be used in applications that link providers based at health centers, referral hospitals, and tertiary centers. The future of Telemedicine will depend on:
- Human factors
- Economic factors
- Technical factors.
Behaviors related to technology developments and their application can affect change at the individual, organizational and societal levels. We can safely assume, based on available empirical evidence that development in mobile communications, sensor devices, nanotechnology, and encryption techniques will alter the way that health care is delivered in the future.