The rapid growth of telehealth hit warp speed in 2020 with precautions surrounding COVID-19 driving more medicine out of providers’ brick and mortar offices and into virtual meeting places. Remote provider visits promise to be of particular value to occupational medicine practices serving busy patients and fiscally focused employers.
A Spring 2020 McKinsey survey revealed that 76 percent of patients were likely to take advantage of telemedicine in the future.1 As Americans get used to the idea of interacting with health providers through computer screens, the demand for convenient online communication methods should see steady growth after the Corona crisis subsides.
Here are five great reasons for practices that offer occupational medicine to build out robust telehealth business lines:
1. There has never been a better time.
Tech-related costs have come down to Earth as healthcare providers are now capable of using existing equipment to ramp up telehealth. Consumers, likewise, already have the computers and smartphones necessary to enable HIPAA-compliant virtual meetings. Given the necessities of quarantine and working from home, patients have been forced to adopt the technology, so the learning curve is shorter. Moreover, many patients who were reluctant to try telemedicine in the past have experienced the benefits and found they like it.
2. Occupational medicine is well-suited to telehealth.
Many of the injuries and illnesses occupational medicine practices routinely see require repeat appointments, but don’t require in-person follow-ups.2 Virtual appointments are easy to shift among providers as needed to prioritize convenience and timing, which are more important to patients at occupational medicine clinics who are accustomed to seeing different doctors. In many cases, providers can diagnose or rule out problems quickly via video, saving time and stress for workers who don’t have to drive to or wait in an office.
3. Fewer pain points for more patients.
Telehealth visits present several inherent advantages3 that translate into lower costs and higher volume. Appointments usually take less time, so providers can squeeze more in over the space of a day or a typical shift. With the increased number of patients, cancelations and no-shows hurt the calendar and the bottom line less. But perhaps the biggest-impact advantage is reduced need for space and equipment.
4. Employers are more motivated than ever to control costs.
As the country recovers from COVID, companies need to tighten their belts. Occupational medicine practices that see patients over video can cut costs and offer better deals for employers. Telehealth visits are less time consuming4, which means less PTO and more time on the job for employees.
5. Communication is streamlined.
With patients already engaging with practices online, forms can be more easily and affordably completed electronically. Patients have personal resources like records and calendars literally at their fingertips. In addition to promoting patient use of electronic resources, telehealth infrastructure is more conducive to communication between providers.
Many occupational medicine practices are already using smart software like AgilityOM®5 to manage their electronic medical records. In response to the pandemic, Net Health expanded Agility and all of its other software solutions by adding telehealth services to enable practices to sustain continuity of care and ultimately have a greater impact on patient outcomes.
People and institutions can be resistant to change, even when the future stares us in the face. The new norms ushered in by Coronavirus invite us to discover new resources, solve problems in novel ways, and improve our efficiency. Telehealth has become a staple of healthcare over the past several years. Its exponential growth in the COVID era has introduced its advantages to new patients, new providers, and new practices.
- McKinsey & Company, “Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality,” May 29, 2020.
- Varkey P, Hagen PT, Wimsett W, Buchta W, “Telemedicine Applications in Occupational Medicine,” November, 2006.
- Medical News Today, “Telemedicine Benefits: For Patients and Professionals,” April 20, 2020.
- Society for Human Resource Management, “Telemedicine Improves Health and Saves Money, If Employees Use It,” May 7, 2018.
- Net Health, “Net Health for Occupational Medicine: When Employees are Patients, Service and Compliance Come First,” 2020.