Why Healthcare Organizations of All Sizes Must Fully Integrate Telehealth in 2021
Telehealth is more important now than ever. Below is an excerpt from Mend’s latest eBook which discusses how practices of all sizes can easily integrate telehealth. If you would like to download the entire eBook, you can do so for free by going to The 2021 Guide to Fully Integrating Telehealth and Eliminating No-Shows.
As we adjust to the “new normal,” we must reflect on our understanding of patient needs and challenges from pre-pandemic times, and apply them to the new barriers to care we have begun to encounter.
In 2018, across geographic regions and healthcare specialties, as many as 23 percent of scheduled appointments were not completed.
In order to address no-show rates, healthcare organizations must understand and address the reasons that patients don’t present for scheduled appointments.
By identifying the most common barriers, clinics and practices can employ solutions that change the entry point to care and improve administrative processes to reach more patients.
According to a study by Todd Molfenter, strategies such as streamlining processes, reducing wait times, and introducing automated appointment reminders reduce no-show rates considerably.
Why Do Patients No-Show?
Missed appointments can happen in any population, and the reasons vary widely. After examining demographics across the spectrum, Zivin, et al in the American Journal of Managed Care identified specific populations who are most likely to miss appointments.
“Research demonstrates that ‘no-show’ patients are more likely to be younger, male, and unmarried.” Their study also identified young adults with children and those with less experience in mental health treatment to have a higher likelihood of no-shows.
While these populations may be more likely to miss an appointment, they are also most likely to be accessible via technology. These patients need a better way to access care, and a more comprehensive tool to help overcome psychological, motivational and/or physical
barriers. By working with enhanced tools that introduce engagement via technology, these populations are able to receive care and interact with their care teams in ways that are familiar and simple for them.
Access to technology can also be a barrier for some populations, and thus makes receiving care virtually challenging. Some social determinants of health could remain as barriers for vulnerable communities, such as digital literacy and access, lack of medical insurance and limited financial resources. Recent studies estimate that at least 1 in every 4 Americans may not have digital literacy skills or access to Internet-enabled digital devices to engage in video visits.
Improving access and affordability of healthcare is feasible through telehealth, but other advancements will also be required to reduce these inequities. As noted by Nouri et al., “Now that telemedicine is the default for delivery of primary care — and is likely to remain so for the near future — it is imperative that we proactively evaluate and address disparities in access to telemedicine to limit the already worsening health outcomes and health disparities.”
In July 2020, local lawmakers from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit introduced resolutions urging Comcast to improve broadband strength and expand public hotspot access swiftly and equitably in support of virtual learning for students across those communities. In June, a bipartisan coalition of United States Governors submitted a letter urging federal support for digital infrastructure developments, stating, “This investment will unlock the potential of a new generation of technologies for healthcare advancement, ensure that school children across America have access to the best educational tools, foster new ways of doing business… and give states and communities the opportunities to capitalize on smart infrastructure deployment.” These efforts and similar public/private partnerships — prompted further by the COVID-19 pandemic — could dually benefit access to technology and internet connectivity critical for modern-day healthcare delivery.
Beyond post-covid apprehension about in-person meetings, behavioral and chronic illnesses often impair motivation, making it difficult for patients to follow through with available help. Patients who are struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, PTSD, etc. may not be motivated to leave the house, even if the end goal is the treatment that will help them overcome this. Further, the stigma associated with behavioral health treatment can be independently anxiety-inducing.
The right HIPAA compliant telehealth software can instantly connect patients with their providers in a secure video conference with just the tap of a link and date of birth.
Research shows that in some diagnoses and instances, treatment via telehealth is as effective or more effective than in-person care. By increasing diversity in the range of providers available, telehealth makes it easier to match patients with an appropriate specialist. Additionally, telehealth has been shown to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps.
On the top-rated platforms, telehealth visits consistently average single digit no-show rates without requiring the patient to download software to connect.
Ask vendors about their connectivity rates and find out if instant support is available if a patient or provider ever has trouble connecting. The right telehealth solution will ensure your staff and providers do not need to assume the role of a help desk…
Mend is the Leading Telemedicine & Patient Engagement Platform. Cut down no-show rates and see more patients.