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Is Telehealth the Future for Healthcare Jobs?

COVID-19 Has Accelerated the Transformation to Telehealth

As digital capabilities improve, one area in which new technology is impacting is healthcare jobs in primary care. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move to telehealth, especially as the barrier of payment parity has largely been removed – and healthcare jobs are evolving because of this.

Telehealth Visits to Explode to 1 Billion This Year

Telehealth visits have become increasingly common in recent years. After remaining around 22 to 23 million through 2013 to 2016, they jumped to 30 million in 2017, and were estimated to have risen to as many as 50 million in 2019 and up to 81 million in 2020.

COVID-19 has exploded this estimate. According to Forrester Research, this year will see a colossal one billion virtual healthcare visits.

The Pay Barrier to Telehealth Has Been Removed

Healthcare providers have been quick to recommend telehealth options to patients with mild health symptoms, to help curb the stress in the healthcare system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, health insurers have also been pushing telehealth and many have started to pay the same rate for a virtual healthcare interaction as they do for in-person visits.

The government has also played its part in reducing the cost barrier to adoption of telehealth, paying the same rates via Medicare and Medicaid for virtual visits as they do for in-person visits. Now the genie is out of the bottle, as it were, there is likely to be pressure for equal rates to be maintained after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

Three Healthcare Interactions That Are Ideal for Telehealth Interaction

With the barriers to telehealth removed, the question now is, what interactions are best suited to healthcare by virtual means? Certainly, the treatment of minor illnesses, chronic diseases, and efficient referrals could all be aided by telehealth strategies.

1.     Treating Minor Illnesses

Minor illnesses and conditions can be dealt with very effectively by telehealth services in primary care. Treatment of patients showing symptoms of colds and rashes are straightforward, and easily recommended by examination over the phone.

Health insurers are mostly favorable toward this type of telehealth interaction, as it reduces the risk of patients escalating and requiring emergency treatment. For physicians, keeping these types of patients out of their treatment rooms reduces the risk of cross-infections with other patients attending in person.

2.     Monitoring Chronic Diseases

For patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, COPD, hypertension, and heart disease, much of the work in primary care is undertaken in the monitoring and management of patients.

Many of the visits to physicians made by patients with chronic diseases are routine, to assess blood pressure or blood sugar levels, for example. Such visits are well suited to telehealth visits. This alleviates pressure on both patients and physicians, allowing for greater flexibility in the system and, once more, reducing the potential for cross-infection.

The drawback with managing chronic disease by telehealth is that patients must adept at using the technology needed – both in computer technology and health testing equipment.

3.     Efficiency of Referrals

When patients need to be referred, telehealth has the potential to play a major role in ensuring they are referred efficiently. It is not always necessary for an in-person examination for a referral decision to be made, and in these cases a fast referral to the correct specialist can be expedited by a tele visit.

Telehealth Is Evolving Healthcare Jobs

In the middle of an international health crisis, it is difficult to find positives. However, the necessity to shift resources to help the nation cope with COVID-19 exploded use of telehealth strategies. It has shown that not only can healthcare providers adapt at speed; if they are reimbursed correctly, they will do so.

We expect telehealth to become a standard practice within healthcare. Provided reimbursements remain on par with in-person visit payments, there is no reason why this should not be the case.

As telehealth becomes standard practice, we also expect healthcare jobs to evolve. For example, healthcare professionals are likely to need to upgrade their technology skills and spend some time coaching their patients in the use of technology and medical equipment. There may also need to be a regulatory shift in terms of data sharing protocol.

As the transition to more extensive use of technology and telehealth practices continues, there will be many exciting opportunities for healthcare professionals in primary care. If you are considering your next challenge in healthcare, contact Telehealth Gigs today. We have dozens of employers and hundreds of jobs available now.