Telehealth: A Way of Cutting Through the Noise of Healthcare Paperwork and Bureaucracy
Rather than being a welcome opportunity for helpful counsel, doctors appointments are seen by many in the U.S. as an expensive last resort only to be taken after weeks of pushing through symptoms. According to a 2014 Forbes report, Americans see the doctor just four times a year. Because of this, physicians feel the burden of making the most out of each and every visit whilst juggling paperwork, bureaucracy, long hours and a wide variety of medical quandaries.
While attempts to create a better healthcare system are continually in the works, telehealth is emerging as a bridge over the cracks of a disjointed healthcare system. Telehealth is “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration” as defined by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Technology in this form gives doctors and patients near and far a more viable opportunity to form rewarding, impactful relationships. Because of the convenience of telehealth for the consumer, patients are more likely to schedule appointments for non-emergency symptoms and focus more on preventative health.
More Than Just Convenience:
However, it’s important to understand that telehealth is about more than simple convenience. For those who live in remote communities, telehealth can be a lifeline. In-person appointments are difficult for some patients in rural locations to get to, increasing the likelihood of major health issues and putting pressure on doctors to deal with as many health concerns as possible in one short appointment. With telehealth, easy long-distance data sharing and virtual appointments grant significantly more flexibility for everyone.
Telehealth may also be part of the solution to needs that we haven’t yet seen. As eVisit shares, the predicted 20% population growth from 2008 to 2030 is expected to bring with it a shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly in rural areas. As chronic disease rates also rise, these unbalanced numbers become even more alarming. Ensuring that people everywhere can work with both general doctors and specialists is a tremendous benefit of telehealth:
“Telemedicine can reduce the impact of such challenges by connecting the right people with the correct resources and expertise in real-time.” - eVisit.
Rather than calling or visiting their doctor’s location for every problem or question, both urban and rural participants who use telehealth’s patient portals can enjoy faster, smoother communication regarding basic questions, prescription refills, appointment scheduling and other similar needs. This saves patients hours spent in waiting rooms and cuts out a tremendous amount of busy work for healthcare professionals.
Considering that the average primary care doctor appointment lasts less than five minutes for approximately half the world’s population, improving the quality and validity of these visits through telehealth’s behind-the-scenes impact is extremely important. Shorter appointments have been linked to worse health in patients and a greater risk of burnout and depersonalization for doctors as found by research from the U.K. and Finland published in BMJ Open in 2017.
Technology has proven to be a source of education, news and entertainment, but telehealth now shows us it can also be the origin of greater freedom for both patients and their doctors to finally focus on value-based care and the patient, rather than paperwork and administration.
By Katherine Meikle
Katherine Meikle is a research writer with a specialty in content creation for medical and marketing purposes. She is a passionate believer that informative copy doesn’t have to be boring, and loves getting to learn something new every day in her work. Other interests of Katherine’s include travel, history and photography.