The telehealth industry saw demand surge significantly this spring as Covid-19 began. Telehealth appointments are ideal for a pandemic: patients can seek an informed opinion about their symptoms and be referred for a medical test without having to go to the office physically and placing people at risk.
But while the focus on telehealth has mainly been linked to its utility for infectious diseases, there are many other innovations in the field that are on track to transform the way many people seek treatment. Here is a peek at where telehealth is headed in 2021.
Care Management for Chronic Disease
In the early days of the pandemic, many patients with chronic or ongoing health problems were delayed due to concerns around catching Covid-19 or reduced access to healthcare services due to the overflow of coronavirus patients. Now that hospitals and medical offices know how to treat the patients with the disease, non-emergent and ongoing treatment of chronic illnesses such as lupus, autoimmune disease, and age-related conditions are beginning to pick up again. One telehealth provider sees many chronic illness patients in need of ongoing care. There has been an ideological shift in remote monitoring for patients with diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
It is an indication that telehealth is evolving from one-off to more chronic, like a virtual primary care practice. Owing to wearable health devices that can monitor heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, and then send that data to the provider, ongoing virtual treatment is becoming increasingly efficient. Telehealth will continue to play a vital role for patients with these kinds of issues in 2021.
Faster Technological Advances to Meet Sprouting Regulations
One reason telehealth service has been able to scale up so quickly during the pandemic is that the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services eased specific regulations. This feature made it easier for doctors and hospitals to efficiently provide telehealth services without overthinking about the privacy provisions of HIPAA or whether patients with particular health insurance programs may be eligible for assistance.
As these regulatory steps continue to fade away, once the pandemic has been better regulated, telehealth providers will once again need to make protection and privacy a top priority. The new data encryption technologies will need to build sustainable telehealth solutions that can endure increased usage volume and broader deployment.
Continued Focus on Mental Health and Psychiatry
One positive change in healthcare driven by the pandemic is a renewed emphasis on mental health services’ value. Take into account the growth of mental health applications built to help users practice mindfulness, learn to meditate, and develop safe sleep patterns. When the pandemic began in April 2020, 10 top-notch applications saw a spike of more than 2 million downloads compared to January. Telehealth providers are also taking care of this.
With several people experiencing anxiety and depression, many telehealth institutions provide their patients with virtual mental health resources. That includes everything from licensed counselors to psychiatrists. When paired with online drug shopping and refills, virtual mental health programs can be a lifeline for patients who are having difficulty leaving their home or handling several doctor and pharmacy visits. Telehealth is expected to begin to expand in 2021, offering greater access to all categories of patients: the elderly, those with mental health issues, pediatric patients, and more.