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Fremont, CA: The healthcare industry had to quickly adapt to cope with the social distancing measures put in place to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections. At the height of the pandemic, clinics, hospitals, and doctors looked to telehealth for a way to provide the same level of care while limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Key trends in the use of technology have emerged, which will continue to shape the future of telehealth services.
Simply put, telehealth is the use of communication technology to provide healthcare services to patients who are not in the same physical location, such as video chat via apps or webcams, phones, or video conference software. Just before the pandemic, telehealth services were mostly ad hoc and had a wide range of limitations. They were originally designed to help rural and underserved patients gain access to specialists when local resources were severely limited. Fast forward to 2020-2021, and telehealth is becoming widely used in all aspects of the industry.
Increased Patient Utilization
What began as a strategy to reduce the amount of community transmission has resulted in an active discussion among healthcare professionals about the future continuation of telehealth consultations for many clients. For non-urgent and follow-up appointments, it is now considered a cost-effective first line of treatment.
More Focus on Mental Health
Mental health disorders affect slightly more than 10 percent of the world's population. The pandemic only seemed to exacerbate the situation, causing an increase in depression and anxiety as a result of lockdowns, isolation, and increased fear of the unknown. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted mental health services in 93 percent of countries worldwide. Those who were already receiving treatment saw their support groups close, their clinic appointments canceled, and their options for symptom relief became severely limited.
Many therapists, counselors, and doctors quickly turned to video conferencing to continue to support their patients in order to continue to treat them. As a result, the development of teletherapy and telepsychiatry began, and this will most likely become a widely accepted form of treatment in the future. Even in the absence of the pandemic, it is estimated that only about half of those diagnosed with mental health disorders receive treatment. This is due in part to the scarcity of specialists in a given field, but with the advancement of teletherapy and telepsychiatry, this should be a thing of the past.