Industry leaders gathered for this year’s online-only American Telemedicine Association conference throughout June to map out a path for virtual care beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The strategy used to be, before the pandemic, that telehealth is a bit of a curiosity and we’ve got to figure out how it’s going to fit into our future,” says Dr. Joseph Kvedar, ATA board chair and senior adviser of virtual care at Mass General Brigham in Boston, in a HealthTech interview. “Now, it’s more about how our hybrid environment looks and how that will persist, and what the wild cards are that are going to determine how big our telehealth investment is going forward.”
With telehealth proving vital during the health crisis, it is finding staying power as a useful tool for bringing care to underserved communities. For example, healthcare leaders at the conference shared their experiences with providing care to homeless people, patients with limited English proficiency and older adults.
Telehealth is expanding opportunities to bring care to communities regardless of location. Nurse Disrupted in Wisconsin brought telehealth to homeless shelters to help conduct COVID-19 screenings.
To better accommodate patients with limited English proficiency, Children’s Health of Dallas and Sutter Health in California enhanced their telehealth offerings by providing translation services.
And health leaders continue to bridge the digital divide among older adults, who have shown incredible growth and familiarity with telehealth during the pandemic, Jennifer Kent with market research firm Parks Associates said at the conference. “What’s even more incredible is that seniors are telling us they’ve had pretty positive experiences,” Kent added.
A J.D. Power study found that telehealth delivered increased customer satisfaction, outpacing other healthcare services. There is a lot of value gained for providers and patients when care is accessible outside of the doctor’s office.