Telehealth has slowly been making inroads over the past couple of decades, and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has only escalated its adoption. Doctors have been told to hold every visit possible remotely in order to cut down on the chances of spreading the virus between patients and medical providers.

While in-person doctor’s visits have been the standard for generations, telehealth offers several benefits that in-person appointments simply can’t match. In fact, telehealth can reduce costs and barriers to access for both doctors and patients. If you’re new to the idea of telehealth, here are nine benefits that you need to know about remote health care.

For Patients

1. You don’t have to worry about transportation.

Getting to and from the doctor’s office can be a large barrier. Even people with reliable vehicles have to make arrangements with their households to use the car, as well as taking both travel time and gas into account. Patients who use public transportation or ride-sharing options have to account for many more unknowns, including unreliable transit schedules and routes that may not take them directly to the doctor’s office. By letting you stay in your home, telehealth visits make it easier to talk to your doctor and increase access to care.

2. You don’t have to find elder or child care.

For adults serving as primary caregivers, getting away from the house can be tough, even if they’re not officially employed. In that case, they have to arrange for their partner to stay home, or if that’s not possible, find or hire other people to watch their children or parents while they go to the doctor. This added expense and hassle serves as a barrier that keeps people from getting to the doctor’s office. Remote health appointments remove the need to find elder or child care for dependents, making it easier to virtually visit the doctor.

3. You’ll waste less time.

Time is a major consideration in scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments. You have to factor in not only the length of the appointment itself, but also transportation time and time spent in the waiting room. Between everything, many patients must sacrifice two or three hours of their day just to talk with their doctor for 15 minutes (or less!). Some people simply can’t get that much time off of work, which makes them reluctant to visit the doctor. Remote appointments eliminate transportation time and significantly reduce delays as well. No more wasting an hour in the waiting room while the minutes tick past your appointed time.

4. It reduces your chances of catching an illness.

We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a waiting room during cold and flu season, listening to other patients around us coughing and coughing and coughing. Simply due to the concentration of sick people, in-person doctor’s offices increase the odds of spreading germs. Plus, if you’re already visiting the doctor because you’re sick, your compromised immune system can make you more vulnerable to picking up more germs. Taking appointments from the comfort of your own home keeps you safe and prevents you from spreading any potentially contagious illness to other people.

5. It’s increasingly covered by insurance.

More and more insurance companies are covering telehealth visits, and as the cascading effects of coronavirus encourage more processes to move online, this trend will only continue in the future. While once considered a luxury, remote doctor visits will soon become as mundane as visiting a typical office for both you and your insurance company.

For Providers

6. You can see more patients.

Because of the increased efficiencies and reduced downtime between appointments, telehealth systems allow you to see more patients that you otherwise would not. Some physicians also use the time they would have spent commuting to extend their office hours, letting them see even more patients. For example, some patients who can’t get off work during the day might be able to hop on a call with you at night for half an hour. (And none of them will know if you’re wearing pajama pants under your white lab coat.)

7. You don’t have to leave your house.

Many of the same benefits that apply to patients are also a boon to physicians. Staying at home eliminates health care providers’ commutes, which saves time and money that they can use to see more patients. Telehealth doesn’t just limit patients’ exposure to germs. It also limits physicians’ exposure, which keeps them healthy and eliminates the chance that they might carry germs between patients. Finally, telehealth visits can ease the burden on physicians and their families who are also caring for children or relatives at home.

8. It reduces costs.

By increasing the number of patients and decreasing overhead expenses, telehealth visits save money. These savings are especially important for physicians who own their own practices instead of working for a big hospital. While you might need to initially invest in setting up or subscribing to a secure telehealth system, remote visits will quickly pay for themselves as they become more popular. In fact, telehealth might actually open new opportunities to bill for activities that were previously uncompensated, such as follow up phone calls.

9. It improves patient engagement and reduces no-shows.

A doctor’s primary goal is to improve patient outcomes, and telehealth can accomplish this on several levels. Unfortunately, the patients most in need of doctor visits are often the ones who struggle the most with getting time off work, finding elder or child care and securing reliable transportation to and from the doctor’s office. Telehealth can help break down these barriers and result in a wide variety of benefits like reducing no-shows and diverting unnecessary visits to the ER. Ultimately, all these benefits ease the strain on the whole health care system.

Now, don’t hang up your nursing scrubs quite yet. There will always be a need for in-person doctors’ visits. But incorporating a telehealth option into your practice can benefit both you and your patients greatly.

Deborah Swanson
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