Why Healthcare Companies Are Meeting Patients Online and How You Can, Too
Read more about the digital transformation of the healthcare system and the future of the healthcare industry here.
If you frequented a doctor’s office in the pre-COVID world, you were likely trapped in a waiting room for ages. No matter how punctual, a 20 to 30 minute wait time (if not more) was always built into the experience. Pros would learn to bring a book or even some light work to pass the time.
Nowadays, despite the pressures that healthcare systems are feeling around the world, waiting in a doctor’s office looks nothing like it did before. Practices and hospitals that never had much of a digital presence are now embracing the use of video programs to “meet” patients online. Simple ailments, prescription refills, counseling sessions, and other appointments can be addressed without ever stepping foot in an actual office. Wait times be gone!
Video calls and the broader digital transformation of the healthcare industry have various benefits, many of which we’ll break down here. This is a change that affects everything from checkups with your general practitioner to counseling sessions and beyond.
The future of healthcare is here and it’s not going anywhere. Let’s talk about why.
Instant, cost-saving communication
Brick and mortar facilities inevitably cost a lot of money for upkeep. In the United States, overhead costs represent 43% to 45% of total hospital costs, 25.3% of which were “administrative.” Keeping the lights on is no small feat, so imagine how much money could be saved with streamlined systems and online services.
The majority of the workforce outside of healthcare realized pretty quickly that remote work can be effective in terms of both cost and productivity. In a June 2021 study, it was estimated that companies save on average $22,000 per employee per year when remote. The healthcare industry is no exception to these kinds of savings. Not only does meeting online help to reduce the cost of a physical practice, but it also saves time and resources for actual patients and doctors who no longer have to travel. A FlexJobs study estimated that commuters save about $4,000 a year when they don’t have to travel to work. It’s a win, win.
Automated scheduling and digital administration also create smoother, simpler processes for both healthcare facilities and the end consumer. This virtually eliminates wait times for online services and allows for speedier solutions to less urgent ailments. The combination of these factors means that many healthcare practices can scale their services, often seeing hundreds or thousands more patients per year without sacrificing quality.
It also opens the door for additional or more scalable revenue streams. Where some practices were previously bound by the number of exam rooms and proximity of patients or providers, they are now able to offer a broader scope of services to a wider range of individuals.
Companies like accuRx are a great example of this. Originally, they provided a service allowing GPs around the UK to communicate via SMS with their patients. But at the start of the pandemic, they quickly expanded into video consultations to deliver an even better experience for both patients and providers. Powered by Whereby Embedded, accuRx went from servicing about half of the UK’s GPs to a 98% coverage. This means that GPs further afield can tap into markets previously out of the question allowing even remote practices to get involved!
Frictionless face-to-face meetings
Access to quality healthcare is not equal around the world. In some cases, it’s not even equal across the country. Taking advantage of remote technologies, therefore, makes it possible for folks to more readily access quality care so long as they have an internet connection. In a recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey, 70% of countries reported adopting telemedicine and telehealth services to cope with in-person disruptions.
This is significant especially for mental health counseling services. During the pandemic, mental health has become a daily discussion point. In the US alone, 4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorders during the pandemic compared to 1 in 10 in January 2019. With greater access to mental health professionals from a distance, folks are able to access support in ways that may previously have been unavailable.
For therapy practices, online services are reported to boast greater commitments from patients – they’re actually showing up to appointments and making space for the session. And a decrease in no-shows is sure to impact the overall efficiency and drive down wasted resources. It also provides a more steady income flow for private practices.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Meeting with patients online helps to reduce the risk of cross-infection or the general rate of infection. Patients no longer have to expose themselves or other doctors in the initial stages when a diagnosis is unclear. Reducing foot traffic in a given medical space helps to maintain the overall health of all involved. Digital healthcare experiences are really pushing the bounds of effective care.
Superior security and traceability
But what about privacy? Accenture reported that 70% of healthcare consumers are concerned about data privacy and commercial tracking. There is some pretty sensitive information shared with doctors, counselors, and the like. It seems risky to be putting that out there via online channels, no?
Well, no! Video solutions have come a long way in terms of privacy. When looking for a solution to host online appointments, there are some features you’ll want to look for to cover your bases. One is GDPR compliance. This usually means looking at things such as encryption capabilities, as well as access and audit controls. Companies should also ensure that they’re using secure file transfers to keep any documents or information safe. The NHS, for example, uses Safe Electronic File Transfer (SEFT) as an encryption method to keep documents safe. In many ways, privacy software available today is infinitely more secure than some of the outdated systems used at hospitals or in medical practices.
Information streams can also be more accurate and robust. Recording calls and adding them to a patient file can help anyone within the practice stay up-to-date on a case to better support and assist a patient. With larger hospitals and practices, it’s not uncommon for a patient to see several healthcare professionals over the course of even a single visit. Having cleaner, tighter digital records can help keep all information in one place, making diagnostic efforts less redundant. AI software such as HealthTap can even triage common symptoms reducing wasted time even further.
Way of the future
Accenture’s recent study on digital healthcare reported that while 7% of people experienced a virtual consultation in 2020, that’s been bumped to 36% in 2021. It’s likely that we’ll only see this number increase as time goes on.
Despite the fact that it took a worldwide pandemic to drive the healthcare industry into the digital future, there’s no going back now. The “new normal” we speak of so frequently now includes video appointments and online services. The success of companies like accuRx, Kareo, and others shows that the tide of the industry is turning to digital. And why wouldn’t it?
What most healthcare professionals have learned is that digital services like video calls and online appointments work wonders to augment the impact of their support. While a video call alone may not be enough to completely replace an in-person visit, it’s enough to solve several problems at scale: from cost-efficiency to accessibility, and more. In fact, national healthcare systems like the UK’s NHS are including “digitally-enabled care” in their long-term plans. COVID has merely been a catalyst for long-term change.
Getting your online services off the ground
From a smooth, reliable meeting experience, to saved costs and reduced infection rates, healthcare’s digital transformation has had a massive impact. It’s no surprise that more clinics, hospitals, and entire national healthcare systems are continuing to embrace this new way of doing things.
Starting an online practice or transitioning your in-person services to online is easier these days than it ever has been. Even if you don’t have vast experience with digital software, you can find the support you need to get off the ground in no time.
Here are some steps to get started:
1. Understand your business needs
Are you doing more one-on-one consultations or is it a group situation? Do you require GDPR compliance to cover your bases? Do you already have a website set up for yourself?
It’s important to know what you need your video conferencing software to do. You may want to choose a service with as much flexibility as possible so that it can adapt with your needs.
With Whereby Embedded, you can start one-on-one and group consultations right away. Our conferencing software can be easily integrated into your existing healthcare platform. No fiddling around with new websites or complex tools.
True to the Whereby experience, we also don’t require downloads, apps, or logins to access the video conferencing platform. This makes for a smooth experience for both patient and provider to optimize time and keep everyone from spending ages troubleshooting. And to top it all off, we’re GDPR compliant!
“In less than 3 days, we launched and enabled over half of the UK’s GP practices with video consultations within the accuRx platform thanks to Whereby.”
- Donnie Belfon, Product Manager at accuRx.
2. Partner with a company that understands customer needs
At the end of the day, you’re providing a crucial service to patients. That means you need a service provider that will be a partner in creating the best experience possible for you and them.
At Whereby, we have a dedicated team that can help with any questions you may have. We work together with companies like accuRx, Kareo, HuliHealth, and establishments like Oslo University Hospital to provide world-class experiences to patients and healthcare providers. The Whereby team is here to ensure that all your video conferencing needs are covered. You don’t need to be a technical expert to run our software.
3. Just get started!
Getting a new service off the ground can feel overwhelming. But it’s not as hard as it sounds to get going! Once you integrate more digital services into your business, you’ll likely forget how you ever survived without it. Even if you plan to maintain some in-person services, the addition of video consultations alone can have a massive impact on quality of care and accessibility. All you have to do is dive in!