In this challenging period of Covid-19, virtual healthcare has never been more important. Many industries have been forced to adjust the way they operate and have gone off-script. As disruptive as Covid-19 is, it provides an opportunity to test the limits of certain operations to determine how to best manage in such difficult circumstances and what needs to change moving forward.

This unprecedented pandemic is a chance to reassess our technological capacity. For many industries, homes are now the offices for their virtual workforces. Healthcare, too, is moving largely online, and there’s now a worldwide race to adopt virtualized treatment approaches. “There has been something like a ten-fold increase in the last couple of weeks. It’s as big a transformation as any ever before in the history of US health care[1],” says Ray Dorsey, from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

With Covid-19 affecting people across the globe, virtual healthcare is emerging as an innovative solution and realistic option for the time period following this crisis as well. Each generation is getting progressively more mobile-native[2] and, according to a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 40% of millennials consider virtual health to be extremely or very important (compared to 19% of baby boomers) [3]. The fact is, virtual healthcare is only going to grow more popular. At Heather R. Hayes & Associates Inc., we recognize this trend and the importance of providing an online duty of care. Consequently, we have outlined the benefits of virtual healthcare – especially in times when providing quality care remotely is so crucial.

Virtual Health is a Convenient Alternative

The nature of virtual healthcare allows people to be more flexible in their approaches to health. Its variety makes it a popular alternative to the traditional ways of checking on your health through appointments and check-ups. According to research from Accenture, 76% of U.S. consumers would prefer to track health status virtually[4]. Virtual healthcare comes in a range of formats: live video, phone calls, email, mobile apps, and private messaging. The various options give people the chance to talk with doctors or consultants in real time, from virtually any location. It’s healthcare that fits around your lifestyle and busy schedule. Also, you don’t need to book time off of work weeks in advance or wait for hours in a crowded, often dangerous, waiting room with other patients.

Virtual Health Care can be Tailored for You

The various formats also make virtual healthcare a much more personalized way to track health. While many people still prefer face-to-face interaction in a physical context,  people with perhaps more pressing or private issues appreciate the anonymity of virtual healthcare. The option to remain unknown makes a real difference for people who may previously have been hesitant, nervous, or unsettled at the thought of face-to-face check-ups. There is also a generational divide with virtual care. Older users are more likely to favor phone and video therapy sessions, whereas younger users prefer text messaging[5]. Text messaging for check-ups is a service that we find particularly useful for recovery coaching and sober companions. Virtual Healthcare takes you, your circumstances, and your unique issues into account. Although there is no physical interaction, it can still provide a personalized option.

Save Time

One issue with traditional healthcare is the time it takes out of your day. A 2015 study found that the average doctor visit took 121 minutes, and 36% of respondents delayed appointments because they were too busy or the process took too long. It would appear that a significant number of patients – some potentially serious cases – are missing out on essential diagnoses or treatments because appointments are taking so long[6]. With virtual healthcare there’s no waiting room and there’s no time wasted travelling. Virtual healthcare simply saves time – and the cost of getting to your appointments.

Assisting Mental Health

While millions of Americans deal with mental health each year, over half go untreated[7]. Virtual healthcare is making a difference. With the benefits of anonymity and tailored services for people battling mental health, online therapy apps are enhancing the mental health industry. BetterHelp and TalkSpace have enrolled nearly 700,000 and more than 1 million users, respectively, and investors are taking notice. Smartphones and virtual therapy apps are helping break the stigma around mental health, and as the barriers come down, more people are seeking help through virtual means.

Effective Monitoring

Among its many benefits, virtual healthcare is simply a great way to keep track of your health. 77% of consumers would prefer to track their health status virtually, and 72% would prefer to receive virtual reminders of when to take medication[8]. It’s an effective means of maintaining health, relieves clinics of many unnecessary duties, and eases the pressure on surgeries.

Some remain skeptical of virtual healthcare, with some apps viewed as ill-equipped to deal with medical emergencies in the fields of suicide or drug overdose, for example[9]. This reservation may be warranted in some extreme cases, but apps are an invaluable asset in preventing these emergencies from happening in the first place. Virtual healthcare is more than just an alternative to hospitals. It is a platform for people to receive help for different issues, in different locations at different times, all with the benefit of optional anonymity. With more control over their health, people are less likely to slip through the cracks because issues are addressed earlier and can be dealt with sooner.

There will always be bumps in the road as we move to a more digitally connected world. For all the negativity that inevitably comes with Covid-19, it has revealed the need for more virtual methods of healthcare. Of course, traditional forms will not disappear overnight, and the tipping-point is still said to be 5 to 15 years away[10]. But virtual healthcare will continue to grow and be relied upon more frequently. There may not be a virtual takeover of the healthcare system any time soon, but technology is undoubtedly something that can complement the current methods of healthcare being employed.

Get in touch with our team at Heather R Hayes & Associates Inc., if you would like to understand how we can support you with our virtual health care options.

Sources: 

[1] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30818-7/fulltext#coronavirus-linkback-header (accessed 5/5/2020)

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthumoh/2019/10/11/how-virtual-therapy-apps-are-disrupting-the-mental-health-industry/#284908b2bb4a (accessed 5/5/2020)

[3] https://www.aetnainternational.com/en/about-us/explore/future-health/untapped-value-virtual-care-expat-employer.html (accessed 5/5/2020)

[4] https://positivepsychology.com/virtual-care/ (accessed 5/5/2020)

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthumoh/2019/10/11/how-virtual-therapy-apps-are-disrupting-the-mental-health-industry/#284908b2bb4a (accessed 5/5/2020)

[6] https://www.aetnainternational.com/en/about-us/explore/future-health/untapped-value-virtual-care-expat-employer.html (accessed 5/5/2020)

[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthumoh/2019/10/11/how-virtual-therapy-apps-are-disrupting-the-mental-health-industry/#284908b2bb4a (accessed 5/5/2020)

[8] https://positivepsychology.com/virtual-care/ (accessed 5/5/2020)

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthumoh/2019/10/11/how-virtual-therapy-apps-are-disrupting-the-mental-health-industry/#284908b2bb4a (accessed 5/5/2020)

[10] https://www.aetnainternational.com/en/about-us/explore/future-health/untapped-value-virtual-care-expat-employer.html (accessed 5/5/2020)