Telemedicine in the time of Coronavirus

The blog post below was written only a week before the Coronavirus erupted in the news. This is how fast things are changing now. It occurred to me that Telehealth is actually a part of this Coronavirus story. This is a case of technology meeting  its moment. Video phone calls on Skype may have seen as fun and cheap way to connect with friends, now has become an integral part of businesses and now healthcare.  For years, Telehealth growth has been driven by a better and more economical way for “advances in telecommunication and information technology to help overcome some of these disparities by redistributing that knowledge and expertise”( Rashid L. Bashshur, Gary W. Shannon ) to when and where it is needed.

 

One of the first uses was Psychiatry but more recently Radiology, Family Practice, Urgent Care and Emergency Medicine have embraced Telemedicine as a way to provide 24/7 service  by allowing physicians in different time zones to work normal hours while while servicing patients’ needs in US hospitals at night, or to just make all medical practice available whenever and wherever needed.

 

With the Coronavirus pandemic we see the need of reaching patients while maintaining safe distance, plus the stress this growing demand will put on our healthcare services. These two forces may further drive Telemedicine to become a more important tool for all healthcare services.

 

Telehealth (aka Telemedicine) as a Potentially Valuable Ingredient in Your Job Search

 

“As consumers, providers and payers increasingly recognize the value of telehealth, collaboration is critical to embedding virtual care into and across care settings.” – Roy Schoenberg, M.D.

A growing-… no, booming trend — with potentially rewarding opportunities — in the healthcare field is “telehealth” or “telemedicine.” And since there are plenty of indicators this is not a passing fad, it would be wise to take a close look at how your job hunt may benefit from keeping in mind the potential value of this swiftly emerging, tech-driven sphere of service.

For those of you who are relatively unacquainted with telehealth or telemedicine, the U.S. government’s Medicaid’s website says: “Telemedicine seeks to improve a patient’s health by permitting two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or practitioner at the distant site.”

The increasing popularity of telemedicine (also known as “virtual care”), with its ability to provide people with a practical, cost-efficient replacement for in-person visits, is already well-established. A recent healthcare industry white paper states researchers found medical claims for all telehealth services increased by 624% from 2014 to 2018. (Their finding is based on analyzed data from over 29 billion private health care claims records.)

And according to one of the nation’s largest telehealth service providers, this dramatic rise in telehealth claims (as well as advancing technology) is already fueling a number of trends in health care and expanding the boundaries of telehealth well beyond caring for a sore throat or skin rash. Two of these shifts that seem particularly relevant to job-seeking healthcare workers are: 1) the diminishing (or even disappearance, in many cases) of geographic restrictions, and 2) the expanding reach of the clinician team.

Dr. Joseph DeVeau, who serves as virtual health medical director at Privia Health, explains that, for both physicians and consumers, “Telehealth is an effective tool to help connect patients to their physicians by alleviating challenges with scheduling, mobility or transportation.” If you are a physician, surgeon, specialist or nurse seeking employment or looking to move to a new location, how can telehealth or telemedicine impact your job search?

According to healthcare writer Drew Laing, with telehealth visits continuing to grow in 2020, physicians and healthcare providers, wherever they work, can consider making telehealth an important part of their practice, with the potential to benefit them in numerous ways:

  • Expand your patient base

Use of telemedicine provides physicians and healthcare service providers with the opportunity to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to healthcare (e.g., those living in rural areas). In this way, doctors, surgeons, specialists and nurses can widen their geographic footprint with virtually no overhead.

  • Additional revenue streams

Expanding patient volume translates into more revenue. And both doctors and patients benefit from the added convenience of telemedicine. This means physicians, specialists and nurses earn extra income, and they can do so from home, if they prefer.

  • Reduce cancellations

When physicians or other healthcare specialists use telehealth, it can help lower the amount of cancellations and no-shows (due to its convenience). If a patient is unable to get to their appointment at a doctor’s office, hospital or medical clinic, their access to telemedicine gives patients an effective alternative for them to use and still get treated, without compromising other commitments.

Certainly, many job-seeking physicians, surgeons, specialists and nurses may be looking for full-time employment at a thriving private medical center, hospital or clinic. However, it would be wise, given the surge in telemedicine’s popularity, to consider it as a potentially valuable supplemental ingredient to any higher-level job search in the healthcare field.