The unpredictability of the future remains the only thing consistent in today’s world. While restrictions are lifting in some states, other states have chosen a slower approach to lifting restrictions.
Through this all there is one thing for certain, a new precedent for healthcare has emerged. As we look ahead, healthcare will continue to transform at a rapid pace. Here are five predictions for the future of healthcare in your practice.
Telehealth Is Here to Stay
Telehealth adoption has soared during the pandemic with 94% of practices offering telehealth during the pandemic. 65% of patients like telehealth because it is more convenient than in-office appointments. Three of the most popular visit types with telemedicine have been medication management, chronic disease, and sick visits. Six of the largest telehealth adopting population are those who are generally healthy patients, patients with chronic conditions, children, pregnant women, geriatric patients, and behavioral health patients.
Growth has been spurred by several factors. First, HIPAA regulations have been relaxed allowing practices to adopt technologies that would not typically be accepted under the compliance rule. While this may change in the future, it has helped many practices accelerate their telehealth efforts. Second, there has been an expansion of billable visit types allowing practices to collect more revenue. Finally, patients are more comfortable seeking care online vs. putting themselves at risk by coming in for an in-person visit. Even as fears around the virus abate, the convenience factor will keep demand high.
Patients Will Avoid Medical Care
Putting the current world situation aside, patients forget about or otherwise did not know about or receive a reminder about their appointments caused over 37% of missed appointments. Going to the doctor is not on anyone’s “top ten list” of things to do, and the world we’re in has certainly not shifted that viewpoint.
The population in general has stayed home and away from public places during the pandemic. This is especially impactful with medical centers where patients believe it is not safe to visit in person. Patients who are not made aware of telehealth options are often otherwise avoiding important care that they should be receiving. In fact, 60% of clinicians believe that some of their patients will experience avoidable illnesses, both due to diverted or avoided care. By implementing and properly promoting telemedicine to your patients you will be able to ensure that they follow through with their important care plan.
Waiting Rooms Will Disappear
Even for those who are attending in-person visits are finding that the waiting rooms are either closed or spaced out to allow for social distancing. Most patients are being asked to call to check-in upon arrival and stay in their vehicle to complete any check-in and registration forms via their smartphone until they are ready to be seen by their practice. Text messaging and push notifications have been instrumental in the positive adoption rates of this method.
As patients grow accustomed to this new normal, things like the idea of waiting rooms can quickly become a distant memory. Take into consideration the evolution and continued adoption of telehealth along with the desire to avoid being in an area where there is perceived sickness and you have the perfect recipe for the end of waiting rooms.
Virtual Collaboration Will Improve Care Fragmentation
Fragmented care has led to higher costs and lower quality care. This is due to several unintended consequences ranging from inefficiency to depersonalization. By viewing your patient by more than just a single encounter or issue will help improve care fragmentation.
Technology offers opportunities for improved clinician to clinician communication. Whether it is a referral or a specialist consultation, making the pathways to communication easy for your practice to work together with those outside of your practice to limit fragmentation. The communication can be via HIPAA compliant text messaging, video chat, and other methods that have previously been performed via a telephone call, or worse, not at all.
Practices Will Be Paperless
The trend away from paper has been happening for quite some time. It has been accelerated by the current health situation. The key to getting to paperless is to remove the paper elements that exist today. Faxing is one system that can be consolidated into digital transfer of records and other patient documents.
There are several assessments that can take place via electronic means. Examples of codes that can fall within this transfer from paper to paperless are 96110, 96127, 96160 and 96161. Annual wellness visits have also moved from paper to digital in numerous practices. Wherever there is an opportunity to use digital methods (using a computer or sending links via text to patients) will create a much better patient experience and help move us to a truly paperless world in medicine.
The world will continue to change. There will be constant challenges that create a necessity to open up to new technologies and ways of accomplishing our common goal of healthier patients. Working together with practices across specialties to adopt efficient and effective means of ensuring healthier patients should and will happen regardless of our changing world.
 Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention
 Updox Survey
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