Updated: Mar 2
During the pandemic, have you had a doctor’s appointment without actually having to go to their office? Telehealth has been on the rise with the pandemic, but what is telehealth? The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) refers to telehealth as "electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at a distance” (Gold, 2021). According to Global Market Insights, the report predicts the telemedicine industry to value roughly $176 billion by 2026 (Harpaz, 2020).
The rise in telehealth
COVID-19 has been a significant contributor to the increase in telehealth services. Throughout the pandemic, telehealth has become very important, as it can expand access to care, decrease the risk of infection for both the patients and the workers, and help to preserve PPE (Koonin et al., 2020). Many are afraid to visit the doctor’s office in person because of the fears of COVID-19. With home care providers, many were facing patients denying their service at the start of the pandemic. Patients did not want home care workers entering their homes, and many home care workers did not want to visit their patients home because of their fears of the virus.
An article published in JAMA Network Open with roughly 6.8 million people during March and April in 2020 illustrates the “use of in-person medical services dropped by 23% in March and 52% in April, and that telemedicine services grew by more than 1000% in March and more than 4000% in April” (Murez, 2021).
The CDC indicates that “telehealth visits took off during the last week of March 2020, jumping 154% compared to the same week in 2019” (Wolfson, 2021). To put into perspective, telehealth visits in April of 2020 was 78x higher than telehealth visits in February of that year (Bestsennyy et al., 2021).
In Ontario, "between March and July of 2020, office visits in Ontario declined by nearly 80 per cent and virtual care increased 56-fold, comprising 71 per cent of primary care physician visits, a study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) showed” (Aziz, 2021).
Impact of telehealth in home healthcare
Telehealth helps home care providers with the ability to monitor their patients remotely. Remote patient monitoring allows patients to receive the medical attention they need in their own homes, yet, home care workers don’t have to physically be there, which is critical for the home care industry as they are dealing with a shortage of workers (Murphy, 2018).
Home care workers may visit their patient's homes several times a week, but they are not there with them 24/7. Remote patient monitoring allows the worker to measure and monitor diabetes, congestive heart failure or hypertension (Silverstein, 2021). Patients connected to a device allow home healthcare agencies to monitor their patient’s vitals and set alarms and notifications when there is a change. When there are certain detection alerts, home care workers can call/video call to see if their patients are okay. It can help reduce the number of times a worker needs to visit their patients home, which is helpful considering the lack of staffing in the industry.
Instead of a home care worker visiting a senior’s home, they can conduct a virtual session to teach seniors to improve their balance, strength, and how to prevent falls. Telehealth not only benefits home care providers but the healthcare system as well. Telehealth can provide care and solutions to immediate concerns that an individual may have, which can help prevent trips to the emergency department. Additionally, "it can also decrease hospitalizations and length of stay in hospitals" (Khalid, 2020).
In a study conducted by AccentCare and Brittian-Kalish Group with roughly 1,400 patients, with 314 participants part of the hybrid group (both virtual and in-person visits). It illustrated that those receiving care in the hybrid method had lower hospitalizations (Holly, 2021).
The risks of telehealth in home healthcare
There are risks to telehealth when it comes to home healthcare. Telehealth means that you are seeing a physician through a computer screen and not in person, which means that telehealth patients lack a physical exam. Telehealth does not require the patient to visit the doctor’s office, which can negatively affect an accurate diagnosis because there is no "in-person evaluation" (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). Additionally, there may be privacy issues and the inability to read the nonverbal cues of the patient when offering care through telehealth services.
How we can help
Training in telehealth is crucial and can “make or break the patient experience” (Wantuck, 2020). When there is a lack of training in telehealth, human empathy can decrease. It is important to gather consistent feedback from healthcare workers providing telehealth to make sure that they are “implementing best practices and are up to date with the expanding technology and techniques of digital medicine” (Wantuck, 2020).
Feedback from patients provides home care providers insights on what needs improvement and what types of training needs to be in place. Surveys are a great way to deploy these questions to their employees. Pulse surveys are short, frequent surveys that can be tailored to specific topics to assess their change over time.
Questions can be:
Do you find the nursing staff is fair in their assessments?
The nursing staff is good at listening to my needs.
I have the knowledge and resources to respond to patients' needs.
In the second example, it's clear that staff need to be equipped with knowledge and tools to respond to patients' needs.
Retainify offers a 360 development tool that can help businesses understand the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. With the help of our 360 development tool, companies can identify what training needs to take place and what to do to improve these gaps.
Retainify is an employee engagement software that offers a unified solution that allows you to track employee sentiment and measure engagement in real-time. Proactively identify issues that are preventing them from being their best at work. Improve business outcomes by improving the employee experience, and enhance company culture one feedback at a time. Turn Feedback into Action.
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Aziz, S. (2021, May 29). Telemedicine use is rising amid COVID-19 pandemic. Will it become the norm? Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/7902460/telemedicine-future-covid-canada/
Bestsennyy, O., Gilbert, G., Harris, A., & Rost, J. (2021, July 9). Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality? Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality
CDC. (2020, June 10). Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/telehealth.html
Gold, J. (2021, April 13). What You Need To Know To Have Successful Telehealth Visits From Home. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiegold/2021/04/13/what-you-need-to-know-to-have-successful-telehealth-visits-with-your-doctors/?sh=b065ada1a3b1
Harpaz, J. (2020, May 04). 5 Reasons Why Telehealth Is Here To Stay (COVID-19 And Beyond). Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/joeharpaz/2020/05/04/5-reasons-why-telehealth-here-to-stay-covid19/?sh=4682fd7753fb
Holly, R. (2021, August 10). Home Health Telehealth Utilization Likely to Remain Strong. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://homehealthcarenews.com/2021/08/home-health-telehealth-utilization-likely-to-remain-strong/
Irving, D. (2020, September 02). What Telemedicine Needs to Succeed Beyond COVID-19. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2020/09/what-telemedicine-needs-to-succeed-beyond-covid-19.html
Khalid, A. F. (2020, June 29). How to build a better Canada after COVID-19: Make telehealth the primary way we deliver health care. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/how-to-build-a-better-canada-after-covid-19-make-telehealth-the-primary-way-we-deliver-health-care-140702
Koonin, L. M., Hoots, B., Tsang, C. A., Leroy, Z., Farris, K., Jolly, B. T., . . . Harris, A. M. (2020, October 30). Trends in the Use of Telehealth During the Emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January–March 2020. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6943a3.htm
Long Term Care, P. (2014). Long-Term Care Resident Satisfaction Survey. Peel Region. https://www.peelregion.ca/ltc/pdfs/2014-Survey.pdf.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, May 15). Telehealth: Technology meets health care. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878
Murez, C. (2021, January 5). Health Care After COVID: The Rise of Telemedicine. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-01-05/health-care-after-covid-the-rise-of-telemedicine
Murphy, B. (2018, January 18). The Future of Telehealth in Home Care. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.alayacare.com/blog/the-future-of-telehealth-in-home-care
Prasad, A. (2020, June 05). Telehealth Services As A Patient Satisfaction Tool. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2020/06/05/telehealth-services-as-a-patient-satisfaction-tool/?sh=3e9fd07e262f
Silverstein, J. (2021, August 13). 3 Virtual Care Capabilities Every Home Health Agency Needs in 2022. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://homehealthcarenews.com/2021/08/3-virtual-care-capabilities-every-home-health-agency-needs-in-2022/
Wantuck, J. (2020, March 27). Telehealth Training For Physicians And Nurses Is Just As Important As The Tech Itself. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/03/27/telehealth-training-for-physicians-and-nurses-is-just-as-important-as-the-tech-itself/?sh=6174ba433706
Wolfson, H. (2021, June 01). Telehealth Is Here to Stay. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.homecaremag.com/june-2021/telehealth-here-to-stay