What Is Telehealth and Is It Here to Stay?

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Telehealth isn’t a new technology, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated its adoption at a rapid pace. Put simply, offering telehealth is no longer a nicety – it’s a necessity. Here’s why.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare and healthcare-related services via telecommunications. In our digital world, that could mean:

  • Providing support over the phone
  • Performing remote diagnosis via video call
  • Sharing important health information across social media feeds
  • Encouraging better fitness regimes via mobile apps
  • And so much more

Telehealth is often confused with telemedicine, but there’s a distinction to make.

Telemedicine refers to administering healthcare via telecommunications. For example, a radiologist might assess x-ray scans of a patient remotely if that patient’s hospital lacks the resources.

Telehealth, conversely, is more of an umbrella term for all healthcare activities that can be performed over the airwaves.

Should My Practice Adopt Telehealth?

From a health and safety perspective, the answer to this question is absolutely.

COVID-19 is a tricky virus; some carriers show no symptoms of having it. Because of this, many practices are protecting their staff by refusing to conduct face-to-face appointments where possible. This means telehealth has taken centre stage and is now many practice’s first port of call when patients need help.

But providing telehealth goes beyond offering telephone appointments. To truly invest in telehealth is to offer your patients a variety of services across a multitude of digital channels.

Prepare your waiting room for the future with our latest free guide: 'How to  Futureproof Healthcare Waiting Rooms: Covid-19 and Beyond'

Telehealth and Social Media

With over 50 million Britons using social media, it’s now the time for healthcare practices to realise the technology’s potential. But how can social media be harnessed for telehealth?

Firstly, keeping in touch with your patients via social media humanises your brand. It lets you kindle relationships even when your patients are stuck at home and shows your patients you’re still there for them.

Also, with the situation in constant flux, social media is a fantastic means of keeping patients informed about the latest coronavirus advice. You can let them know what you're accepting appointments for, direct them to online resources, and more, all with just a few clicks.

Telehealth and mHealth

mHealth is the use of smartphone applications and wearable tech to promote better health outcomes. With over half the world’s population owning a smartphone and the adoption of wearable health trackers on the rise, there’s never been a better time to invest in mHealth.

Promoting certain applications can help your patients quit smoking, lose weight, track their blood sugar levels, and so much more. mHealth also makes it easier than ever for patients to share vital health information with your practice for better diagnosis and outcomes.

You should also consider releasing an app for your practice. These basic apps aren’t difficult to develop and can make the process of booking appointments and arrange video calls far easier for your patients.

Is Telehealth for Everyone?

Of course, when it comes to using new technologies, the age of your patients and their willingness to adopt becomes a concern. But old assumptions about age and tech are starting to crumble.

For instance, 80% of those over 55 now own a smartphone, compared to just 9% in 2012.

Having said that, the industry has shifted to telehealth so fast that it’s not surprising some patients – across all age ranges – are struggling to keep up. It’s therefore important that when you introduce telehealth services, support those patients that need a helping hand adapting.

Is Telehealth the ‘New Normal’?

With coronavirus showing no signs of slowing down, it’s safe to say that telehealth is here to stay. Even once things eventually do settle down, offering telehealth services to your patients is more convenient and efficient for patients and providers alike.

In today’s connected world, being there for your customers even when they can’t see you in person is a no-brainer.

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