Telehealth’s new prominence hints at more change ahead
The thing about boundaries is that you never quite reach them. In healthcare, for example, new technology — or a novel application of old technology — always opens new possibilities.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic illustrates that principle. Faced with the ongoing need to deliver care to patients, many of whom wanted nothing to do with a physical office visit, practices turned to what had long been a small, niche part of their practices — telehealth — with surprising results.
“We have always used telehealth technology, not because of pandemics, but because it was convenient for our patients,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gelblum, who works with dozens of colleagues at Florida’s First Choice Neurology.
A little learning curve makes a big difference
For Dr. Gelblum, the adjustment to telehealth wasn’t that difficult, but the difference it has made in his practice is dramatic. From 5% online visits before the pandemic, he now conducts about 90% of his visits online.
While the office is open, Dr. Gelblum said many patients are reluctant to come in given that they are comfortable with telehealth. Fortunately, about 75% of his visits are for follow-up care and can be conducted remotely.
Drawing a larger lesson
A similar story is playing out in practices nationwide. From primary care to specialists of every description, practices are finding telehealth is effective.
It remains to be seen whether the new prominence telehealth enjoys is cemented by the legislative actions and insurance reimbursements necessary to support it in the long term. But some changes, including safer methods for appointment booking and check-in, are likely to persist.
Never give up — adapt!
In his landmark 1962 book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn wrote: “Let us then assume that crises are a necessary precondition for the emergence of novel theories and ask next how scientists respond to their existence.”
What scientists never do, Kuhn concluded, is give up on existing paradigms until a new and better one is available.
Let’s hear from the doctor
In that spirit, doctors today may be abandoning some old methods of booking and seeing patients, but they are simultaneously adapting new ones. Healthcare is seeing a paradigm shift leading to innovation and creativity.
In this eClinicalWorks Podcast, we explore with Dr. Gelblum how his practice is handling the tradeoffs that come with telehealth — embracing the new while remaining committed to delivering the highest quality care possible.
“A doctor without a televisit capability,” he said, “is no different than a doctor without a stethoscope!”