Waiting time is the most hated component of healthcare. Patients invest time waking up early, getting dressed, traveling to the hospital, and waiting in line to see their doctor.
Virtual healthcare can decrease these wait times and improve access to care. Here are a few ways:
Patients Can Access Care At Any Time
Every healthcare patient knows the drill – wake up early, rush to get ready and out the door, arrive at the hospital or clinic, and wait. And, unfortunately, that’s not even the worst of it. Often, patients spend up to 34 minutes traveling and waiting to access healthcare services.
Patients invest precious time that they can’t afford to lose on commuting and waiting for their appointment to see their doctor. This leaves them less likely to schedule appointments and means that they will only seek care when they have an immediate health concern – which can be costly for both the patient and the healthcare system.
One of the benefits of virtual healthcare is that it eliminates the need for people to travel and wait to see their physician. With telehealth, patients can connect to their doctors using the same device to text or call their friends and family. That means they can do it from the comfort of their own homes – or anywhere else they can access the internet.
Virtual healthcare also eliminates the need to take a day off work or sacrifice other leisure activities to attend an in-person appointment. And, because of the ability to access care at any time, many of those same patients can make and keep more appointments, resulting in better and more consistent treatment for their condition.
Patients Can Access Care From Any Location
Long wait times are a major barrier to patient access to healthcare. They not only require patients to wake up early, rush out of their homes or workplaces, get a ride to the hospital, and then sit in an overcrowded waiting room for extended periods, but they also deter many potential patients from seeking healthcare because it is simply too difficult to find transportation options that work within their schedules.
With virtual healthcare, healthcare professionals can meet with patients at home or wherever possible. Patients only need a computer, tablet, or smartphone with internet access to join the consultation session. Depending on the patient’s needs, the telehealth team can provide a virtual platform with high-definition video and audio quality that mimics a face-to-face visit.
The benefits of virtual healthcare are clear. The technology can help improve the patient experience and increase efficiency when overcrowding in emergency departments has been a significant concern for patients nationwide. Studies have shown that a decrease in wait times is associated with a shorter length of stay for patients. Virtual healthcare can help to alleviate the pressure on hospitals and doctors’ offices, allowing them to focus on other important areas of patient care.
Patients Can Access Care From Any Device
Patients, on average, spend 34 minutes traveling and waiting for healthcare services, which eats into the time they could have spent receiving care. This is often the case in rural areas where travel and waiting times are much higher. And even in cities, commuting and childcare add to the challenge for many who need access to healthcare.
Virtual healthcare offers a solution to this problem. Whether at home or on the go, connecting with physicians via a smartphone, tablet, computer, or even a virtual assistant is possible. All it takes is a stable internet connection and a device with the right software installed to enable secure and effective telemedicine.
A significant benefit of telehealth is that it can reduce in-person visits to hospitals and clinics. This is especially useful for those who need care for chronic conditions or require frequent appointments to manage their health.
Overcrowding in hospital emergency departments is costly for hospitals and compromises patient experience, but a telehealth visit can help alleviate this issue by diverting patients to a less crowded setting. Additionally, digital tools which allow patients to join virtual queues while at the hospital, can also help optimize operations by giving patients visibility of their position on the waitlist.
Despite the advantages of telehealth, the technology has yet to be widespread. Some barriers include a lack of affordable devices and poor internet connectivity in underserved populations. However, recent consumer surveys show telehealth is growing in popularity across demographics.
Patients Can Access Care From Any Physician
Long wait times are a huge deterrent to patients seeking care, resulting in decreased revenue for healthcare providers. The Altarum Institute estimates that in the US alone, opportunity costs associated with travel and waiting to receive care total $89 billion annually. Patients who choose to forgo care may be less healthy and face significant costs if they encounter medical problems that could have been prevented.
Virtual health is synonymous with telemedicine but can also refer to digital health and other forms of remote care. It can be delivered synchronously (in real-time) or asynchronously, with delays between when the patient seeks care and when their healthcare provider sees them.
For example, patients can use telemedicine to connect with specialists in other cities to obtain second opinions on their treatment options for a condition. This can be extremely helpful for rural patients who might need local access to experts.
However, it’s important to note that virtual healthcare has its limitations. For example, those with high-speed internet access may need help to utilize telemedicine services effectively as they require good data connectivity. Additionally, many people still need digital literacy, making learning new technology difficult and taking advantage of virtual care’s efficiencies.