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7 Reasons: Telehealth Appointments Here to Stay

The World Health Organisation may have declared the pandemic officially over, but our lives won’t return to 2019. The pandemic changed parts of everyday life for many Australians. Some people are still working from home, avoiding crowded places, and embracing the technology that helped us stay connected while practising social distancing.
Like most industries, healthcare won’t return to how it was pre-pandemic. Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, is here to stay for the professionals and patients who want it. There are many reasons why the volume of in-person appointments won’t return to pre-pandemic ones. 

What are Telehealth Appointments?

Telehealth appointments are medical appointments where the healthcare professional and patient communicate via a video conference or telephone call using a phone, tablet or computer. During the consultation, the healthcare provider can diagnose, treat, and advise a patient on some aspects of healthcare services.      

Why Telehealth Appointments Are Continuing

There are a wide range of reasons why patients and healthcare providers are continuing to have telehealth appointments. 

#1 Reduced Costs for Employers & Employees

Most appointments occur Monday to Friday rather than the weekend, which clashes with patients’ working hours. Workers take time off to visit the doctor or psychologist, and many people drive loved ones (someone too young or old to drive) to appointments. There is a lot of time involved in these activities and lost productivity comes at high costs for the individuals and the country's economy. Eliminating the commuting and waiting room time allows employees to take far less time off work.

#2 Reduced Costs/Time for Healthcare Professionals 

Surgery procedures, consulting rooms, and large waiting rooms with administrative staff to maintain are expensive. These costs can significantly reduce if fewer patients choose to see a healthcare professional in person. Healthcare professionals can consult with more patients daily because there are fewer no-shows or last-minute cancellations. Appointments can also be briefer because a video call is quicker to start and end than to usher patients in and out of the office. 

At a time when Australia is short of so many healthcare professionals, the increased efficiency can help them assist more patients. Healthcare professionals can opt to work from home during telehealth appointments and improve their work-life balance than if they had to commute to start their working day. Most doctors and specialists sacrifice time with their families to work long hours, but some work from home can make a difference in finding balance. 

#3 More Privacy for Patients

For employees busy at work or reluctant to take time off for privacy reasons, a telehealth appointment allows them to discreetly attend the consultation without the office (or loved ones) knowing. It is important to acknowledge that some people fear being recognised by a friend or acquaintance going in or out of medical practice. Instead, a telehealth appointment eliminates this risk, and employees will be more likely to schedule their telehealth appointment when needed.

#4 Telehealth is Less Confronting for Some      

For some patients being in the same room as a healthcare professional is daunting. This is particularly true for some psychological services patients. Seeing their provider over a video or phone call and in the comfort of their home allows patients to feel more confident and be more likely to open up. Most psychologists understand that seeking help is difficult for some people, so by providing telehealth appointments, there may be fewer barriers to overcoming and obtaining the professional help they need. 

#5 Comfortable with Technology

Understandably, some patients find new technology difficult. But video call technology can easily be set up by an individual, family member or friend. Some patients had no choice but to embrace the technology during the pandemic. And the good news is once they have used the technology a couple of times, they feel confident to continue with telehealth rather than return to in-person appointments and enjoy the benefits of not commuting to the practice.  

#6 Reduced Risk of Spreading Infections

When unwell patients stay home with their infectious illnesses, there’s no risk of spreading it to other patients in the waiting room or the healthcare professionals they see. Viruses such as COVID-19 and the flu can have severe symptoms, particularly for people who are already more vulnerable, such as those in the waiting room office. By encouraging people to take their appointments via telehealth, we can reduce the risk of spreading infectious illnesses. 

#7 Better Access to Services

For Australians who live in rural areas, a trip to a healthcare professional in person can take hours or days. For almost all practitioners offering telehealth services, those living in remote areas have the same access to doctors, specialists, and psychologists as their city cousins. Pre-pandemic many Australians didn’t access the medical treatment they needed due to distance and cost. This barrier was lowered, and today, many more individuals can address their health concerns promptly.    

Telehealth appointments are just as effective as face-to-face appointments, which is one of the main reasons why they continue to increase in popularity. Not only are general practitioners offering telehealth services, but so are psychologists. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information.

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