Wearable tech, electronic health records (EHRs), and other technology-driven innovations have helped create a dynamic health care environment where care delivery is more efficient than ever for patients and health care professionals alike.
One of the most profound ways technology has affected care delivery is telehealth. During the coronavirus pandemic, its usage jumped 154% in March 2020 compared with March 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and played a key part in keeping fundamental care rolling safely. As more people realize the benefits of seeing the doctor without going to the doctor, telehealth will continue to play a key role in health care strategy.
Therefore, nurse leaders equipped with an advanced practice nursing degree must integrate telehealth into their care delivery plans to consistently provide high-quality care and remain at the forefront of a constantly evolving industry.
Telehealth at a Glance
Telehealth, or telemedicine, allows health care professionals to provide patient care online without an in-office visit. This care can entail patient diagnosis, prescription management, post-treatment follow-ups, and chronic issue management. In some cases, physicians and nurses can check vital signs during telehealth sessions to monitor patient progress.
Effective telehealth requires patients and health care facilities to have the right equipment and software. Most important is an electronic device that allows both parties to engage visually and audibly, such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone. More advanced equipment such as scanners can also play a role in telemedicine, allowing caregivers to share documents or X-ray results. Additionally, patients can receive telehealth kits containing devices that enable a health care professional to take vital signs remotely, such as pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, and EKG monitors.
Telehealth has four main areas:
- Synchronous Telehealth: Live chat or video conferencing software such as Zoom allows for real-time interaction between patients and providers.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): Tech devices allow providers to monitor a patient’s vital signs to track conditions, particularly chronic issues, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma.
- Store-and-Forward Telemedicine: Also known as asynchronous telehealth, this method uses technology to collect patient data and move it from one medical professional to another via a secure platform. Data can include patient health history, X-rays, and biosignals, for example.
- Mobile Health: Mobile health integrates smart devices such as wearable tech to continually collect data pertaining to a patient’s daily behaviors, which can allow providers to create more personalized health and wellness strategies.
Patient Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth offers a number of benefits that can help patients get optimal care.
Benefit 1: Improved Care Access
Telehealth can help patients who might otherwise struggle to get the care they need, such as people with disabilities, older adults with mobility issues, or incarcerated patients. It can also increase care access to people in rural communities who may not have local facilities.
Benefit 2: Added Convenience
Rather than traveling to a doctor’s office, patients can log into appointments from the comfort of their homes. This eliminates the peripheral hassles associated with doctor’s visits, such as arranging for childcare or missing excess time from work.
Benefit 3: Reduced Spread of Infection
Telehealth allows patients to avoid facilities where they might encounter carriers of viral or bacterial infections. This became particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people tried to limit public interactions.
Benefit 4: More Efficient Preventive Care Monitoring and Development
The convenience of telehealth can encourage patients to make routine preventive care appointments more consistently. This makes them more involved in managing their own health and can lead to long-term health improvements.
Provider Benefits of Telehealth
Health care providers can also benefit from telehealth systems.
Benefit 1: Reduced No-Shows
The annual cost of missed appointments is roughly $150 billion, according to 2020 data compiled by HealthCatalyst. The convenience of telehealth can encourage more patients to keep their appointments, which can reduce losses due to no-shows.
Benefit 2: Additional Revenue Stream
Telehealth can allow providers to connect to a greater number of patients, which can increase revenue.
Benefit 3: Increased Patient Satisfaction
Telehealth eliminates peripheral elements of in-person appointments, such as wait times. As a result, patients may be happier about the care they receive, which could make them more satisfied with their providers.
Benefit 4: Lowered Infection and Illness Exposure
Health care professionals can get sick from their patients. Using telehealth to diagnose patients with transmissible illnesses or infections protects these professionals from exposure. This can make them healthier and more readily available to treat patients.
Build the Future of Care Delivery
Telehealth gives health care providers a tremendous opportunity to use technology to improve care. As telehealth becomes increasingly commonplace, health care professionals such as advanced practice nurses will need to prioritize it in their care delivery strategies.
Offering five specializations, Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing helps prepare the future’s health care leaders. Learn how Bradley University can help you succeed in an advanced practice nursing role.