Although restrictions are in the process of being lifted, and we can now see a promising light at the end of the tunnel, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted how businesses function and operate. The healthcare industry – and specifically the telehealth space – has been completely disrupted by the coronavirus.
Here’s a look at how the pandemic has reshaped the future of telemedicine, especially within the psychiatry field:
Telehealth is Here to Stay
President Joe Biden has revealed that he plans on allocating funding and resources to the telehealth field – calling it an important facet of America’s healthcare system. While a long-term strategic plan for the telehealth field has yet to be unveiled by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), the congressionally appointed advisory committee did provide some recommendations for Congress.
The committee first suggested that telehealth expansions temporarily continue – allowing researchers to collect and analyze data surrounding telehealth’s impact on accessibility to quality care. The committee also recommended that Congress continue providing Medicare coverage for telehealth services as well as pay physician fee schedule rates for services rendered.
A Preference For the Future
Even as we begin transitioning back to our normal routines, there will be patients who are going to prefer virtual visits in lieu of in-office appointments. It comes as no surprise, as telemedicine offers patients a convenient and on-demand solution to seeking medical and mental health care. Healthcare facilities and private practices that continue to offer telehealth services will be able to tap into a wider patient pool and address staffing shortages (which subsequently will help reduce staffing burnout).
Telehealth Numbers – Will They Remain High?
In a web-based survey, physicians predicted that telehealth numbers may experience a slight decline as the COVID-19 pandemic dies down. However, more psychiatrists than ever before said they plan to continue offering telehealth services to their patients as an alternative to in-patient visits. By doing so, they’ll effectively decrease patient wait times, offer more flexible solutions for obtaining care and ensure the healthcare industry continues to innovate as technology advances.
Virtual Visits May Be Something Patients Are More Comfortable With
Telehealth solutions offered patients access to critical mental health care during the height of the pandemic when in-office visits weren’t possible. While some patients may prefer face-to-face interaction, others who are more introvertive may elect to continue receiving care via virtual means. Psychiatrists have been able to see that telehealth works better on certain patients.