Although it’s been two years since businesses had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of side effects still resonate throughout the healthcare industry. The pandemic caused a lot of hardship and financial burdens for smaller healthcare practices and independent offices. These things are tricky for businesses to overcome, and it’s caused a great divide in the “haves and have-nots” of doctors and healthcare providers.
Healthcare systems and medical providers with a strong foundation in digital marketing and online strategies mostly survived. Perhaps they had access to telehealth appointments from the start, or maybe they had technology that allowed them to keep their business afloat while not seeing patients in person. This was not the case for many smaller, more rural practices. Because they didn’t have the technology to see patients virtually, many had to close their doors for good.
This significantly impacts those patients in less populated areas and dramatically affects their care experience.
How Has Covid-19 Affected Patients’ Experiences?
In a decade, when we look back at the initial impact COVID-19 had on society, it will be clear that it altered how patients receive their healthcare. Telehealth and virtual appointments have single-handedly changed how patients see their doctors and the flow of communication between physicians and patients. Every type of healthcare practice – urgent care, primary care doctors, medical specialists – are all scheduling regular appointments and follow-ups via telehealth platforms.
Telehealth was a necessary choice when stay-at-home mandates were put in place. It allowed physicians to maximize profitability and efficiency while staying a safe distance and reducing the spread of the pandemic.
Not only did telehealth increase, but patient engagement online skyrocketed. Patients interact with their physicians online through patient portals, social media, and local healthcare listings. Making appointments online has become the new norm.
Long-Term Effects of Covid-19 on Healthcare
Accelerating Telehealth Platforms
Until the pandemic, many physicians and practices never thought about operating virtually. But overnight, remote care became the new normal and transformed the healthcare industry. COVID-19 is credited with accelerating telemedicine by a decade. It’s financially savvy, effective, and safer for patients and physicians.
Since patients have been allowed to see their doctors in person again, telehealth has remained a popular method for physicians and patients. Those with low mobility, declined health, or older patients who cannot drive themselves to their doctor now have greater availability with high efficiency.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities saw high numbers of COVID-19 cases and even death in certain regions. These facilities have pros and cons, but living in these often-crowded homes is becoming less and less appealing.
Needing around-the-clock care hasn’t diminished, but in-home care has become more popular. People want to live independently while still receiving personalized care daily. With healthcare changes due to COVID-19, there is an increase in people who need long-term care but do not feel comfortable going to a nursing home.
Physician house calls, in-home caregivers, and even medical deliveries are increasing in demand.
A Shift in Care Providers
The pandemic put considerable pressure on emergency rooms and urgent care centers. Intensive care units were overflowing with patients, and doctors could not see all the patients lining up in emergency centers.
This highlighted the great importance of nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. While this isn’t new to rural practices, many larger hospital systems began relying more on their support staff.
Independent practices can provide excellent care at a lower cost by having patients see non-doctor practitioners. Advanced nurses would be able to provide 70% of medical care if state medical boards allowed it. Smaller hospitals, however, would need to shut down as more authority is granted to preventative and home care, as opposed to centralized healthcare and hospitalizations. Skilled nurses and nurse practitioners would be able to treat patients for a more significant number of things.