In light of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the health­care sys­tem in the US has changed. More and more, peo­ple are seek­ing out telemed­i­cine ser­vices ver­sus the tra­di­tion­al brick and mor­tar physician’s office. This trend also includes tele­men­tal health ser­vices as well. So what are the advan­tages of these ser­vices and how are they grow­ing to meet the need?

Pandemic Launch

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic def­i­nite­ly thrust the use of telemed­i­cine for­ward but many health care providers have been using this type of ser­vice for years. What the pan­dem­ic did do is encour­age patients’ use of the tele­health ser­vices already in place. Tele­health is defined as “the prac­tice of com­mu­ni­cat­ing elec­tron­i­cal­ly with a physi­cian, typ­i­cal­ly via tele­phone or video chat.” While our hos­pi­tals and doc­tors’ offices have been over­crowd­ed with very sick COVID-19 patients, use of telemed­i­cine has allowed the bur­den felt in these loca­tions to be less­ened.  Patients call in for rou­tine exams and are many times seen and treat­ed faster than if they came in to the phys­i­cal office location.

Advantages to Telehealth Services

Accord­ing to a sur­vey by FAIR Health, there has been a 8,336% increase nation­al­ly in the use of tele­health from April 2019 to April 2020. Advan­tages of this increase and use include:

    • Enabling patients to fol­low shel­ter-in-place restric­tions by stay­ing home and away from hos­pi­tals, except for emergencies
    • Min­i­miz­ing risk to health care work­ers and patients by lim­it­ing expo­sure to the coro­n­avirus and oth­er diseases
    • Facil­i­tat­ing ser­vices for chron­ic patient mon­i­tor­ing, fol­low-up vis­its, ther­a­py appoint­ments and post-oper­a­tive care
    • Employ­ees see the offer­ing of telemed­i­cine ben­e­fits as a huge pri­or­i­ty in exam­in­ing employ­ment options

Advantages to Telemental Health Services

Like Tele­health ser­vices, use of Tele­men­tal Health ser­vices have also increased this year. A recent men­tal health sur­vey says that 7 in 10 employ­ees cite the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic as being the most stress­ful time in their careers. Car­ing for chil­dren who are out of school, car­ing for loved ones, finan­cial issues, and stress from job changes are some of the issues that employ­ees are fac­ing. Busi­ness own­ers see the ben­e­fit of tele­men­tal health as their employ­ees’ access these ser­vices in high­er num­bers. High lev­els of stress have been known to result in low­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, low­er morale, and high­er absen­teeism. Advan­tages for tele­men­tal health include:

  • The pro­vi­sion of tele­men­tal health ser­vices to patients liv­ing in rur­al and under-served areas has sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal­iza­tion rates.
  • Low-income, home­bound seniors expe­ri­enced longer last­ing effects of tele­men­tal health than those who received in-per­son men­tal health services.
  • Men­tal health providers rarely have to per­form any phys­i­cal ser­vices on their patients, so tele­men­tal health is more plau­si­ble than oth­er types of tele­health services.
  • There is lit­tle or no dif­fer­ence in patient sat­is­fac­tion with tele­men­tal health when com­pared with face-to-face men­tal health consultations.
  • Although men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als are in short sup­ply, mobile devices are not.

There are some sig­nif­i­cant advan­tages to the use of telemed­i­cine ser­vices. Zywave explains, “Vir­tu­al health­care is emerg­ing as a viable solu­tion to help lessen the bur­den on health­care facil­i­ties and staff while still pro­vid­ing indi­vid­u­als with the care they need.” Tele-ser­vices also reach more of the under-served pop­u­la­tion both for health care and men­tal health care. As con­sumers gain con­fi­dence in vir­tu­al liv­ing, the call for telemed­i­cine will also grow.