The advantage of virtual healthcare in a crisis

The advantage of virtual healthcare in a crisis

Telehealth can deliver a safe patient experience, while reducing costs for providers worldwide

Elly Yates-Roberts |

It is impossible to overstate the challenges the world has experienced due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Not only have they been enormous from public health emergency and economic stability perspectives, but they have also been unforeseen from healthcare providers’ perspectives. For tens of millions of people, the pandemic has proven to be the greatest stress test in civil history.

With over one million fatalities and hundreds of thousands hospitalised, entire countries have gone into complete lockdown to control the virus. The strain put on caregivers is immense as the pandemic continues to challenge and develop. Although authorities have accelerated the approval processes of several vaccine candidates, a return to normality may not yet be within sight.

Countless news articles, commentaries and research papers have discussed the importance of telehealth services during this period for keeping healthcare personnel safe, reducing the risk of exposure for those with other illnesses, and for keeping other personnel – such as clinical psychiatrists – away from wards where people undergo Covid-19-related treatment.

Social distancing is fundamental to control the disease, and telehealth services enable this at their core. By using information and communication technologies (ICT), healthcare personnel can easily connect with their patients while keeping the required distance. Patients can stay at home while meeting with caregivers via secure video and audio meetings, ensuring patient privacy and data protection.

An essential task for telehealth services is to make it easy for untrained individuals to join their appointments. However, because there are so many of these solutions on offer, simplicity is not always achieved. Various telehealth platforms have different ways of meeting, scheduling and booking appointments, as well as different requirements for devices and connection points with the patient. For many users, these differences can pose challenges, making it hard to join their appointments.

Over the past few years, Microsoft Teams has quickly become the platform of choice for communications within healthcare organisations worldwide. Many healthcare providers – from public health services in Australia to private and non-profit managed care consortiums in the USA – rely on Pexip technology to bring their Microsoft ICT environments together with their users. As providers build their communications around Microsoft technologies, Pexip assists them with numerous challenges, such as enabling recognisable and secure portals, migrating services to the Azure cloud, and enabling compliant services. To ensure accessibility for patients everywhere, Pexip works across every device and web browser, creating seamless, simple and recognisable experiences when joining appointments.

Another significant benefit of embracing telehealth services is a reduction in the number of physical visits to healthcare institutions. This saves considerable costs both for the patient – in terms of travel and time off from work – and the healthcare provider. The reduced need for real estate, higher frequency consultations and more efficient patient care saves millions of dollars for some companies, reducing the total spend for healthcare in an industry that is hard-pressed to provide better and more efficient deliveries.

Over the past few years, telehealth technologies have proven themselves to be life-saving countless times, not only during the global pandemic but also during natural disasters and other emergencies. Telehealth is here to stay, and for healthcare providers, one thing is certain: telehealth is the way to deliver improved, secure and safe patient care, while reducing costs. For example, one Pexip customer who has deployed telehealth services has a projected cost saving of up to $50 million per year. All of these elements contribute to making providers more efficient and aligned with patient expectations. 

Anders Løkke is senior director of strategic alliances at Pexip

This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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