The COVID-19 pandemic pushed medical institutions around the world to adopt new patient care strategies, and the biggest change came in the form of telehealth. Though it had already been used in the years preceding the pandemic, only now has it been embraced as a mainstream trend. At the beginning of 2020, the number of patients who utilized telehealth services went up by 33% over the previous year. Not a surprise, given how people are now more comfortable with technology than ever before. Telehealth is easily accessible and extremely convenient, which is why it's here to stay — likely long after the pandemic has passed.A big part of telehealth is the medical professionals who ensure that digital diagnoses and treatments are done efficiently. And often, those on the front lines are nurses. Since they act as the primary careers for many patients, they must be able to adapt to the changes within the healthcare sector. This includes the widespread digital shift to telehealth.
HOW NURSES FIT INTO THE TELEHEALTH LANDSCAPE
Though a daunting task, the job of nurses is crucial in the promulgation of telehealth. By providing quality care, nurses are playing a huge part in normalizing it. Here are a few ways in which nurses assist in telehealth services:
They help manage non-urgent cases
Doctors and other medical professionals have been overwhelmed by the ongoing health crisis. The sheer number and urgency of coronavirus cases make it difficult for primary care practitioners to attend to other patients with non-urgent illnesses. Nurses have been instrumental in redirecting the influx of non-COVID-19-related patients to telehealth services. Video chats or calls with patients is the first step to getting medical attention. Tech-based screening can also help healthcare facilities triage, and personnel will be able to focus on patients with more urgent needs in person, while nurses and other telehealth specialists can attend to non-urgent cases.
They're able to monitor more patients at a time
As telehealth services continue to expand in the number of patients they can reach, so does the scope of a nurse's duties. In a traditional hospital setting, nurses are in charge of delivering and coordinating care to a set number of patients who are present in the physical venue. However, with the growing popularity of telehealth, the number of patients they must attend to is no longer limited to a physical space. Holding multiple video chats with patients in succession has proven much faster than the traditional office setup. Moreover, this practice lets patients stay at home, lessening the risk of coronavirus transmission.
They provide in-person assistance to those in telehealth programs
In the time of COVID-19, there’s been a steep growth in what's known as a tele-triage. The provider meets with a patient via secure video chat and then recommend treatment based on the info they've gathered. Nurses play a crucial part in this scenario, especially for patients who require extra assistance. They will also often be present alongside the patient to provide direct care and assist the doctor as a diagnosis is made. This ensures that each tele-triage is accurate and that the patient has the assistance they need during the checkup.
WHAT CHALLENGES NURSES FACE IN TELEHEALTH
Though it's clear that nurses have a hand at furthering telehealth and normalizing its use in this post-COVID world, there are still many hindrances that prevent it from fully taking root. Two main issues are as follows:
There's been a huge surge in the demand for telehealth service
Given just the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for telehealth services is extremely high. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, telehealth providers were scrambling to expand their platforms. They needed more capital to pull off system-wide upgrades. Luckily, investors were happy to lend a hand.But with the improvement of telehealth services came the demand for medical professionals, particularly nurses, who knew how to operate them. This has led to a growing number of online venues where one can study to be a nurse. It's been noted that in the time of COVID-19, nursing education come in "quick bursts" that are substantive and concise. These are popular for nurses and aspiring nurses in our current climate as they're more accessible and ideal for just-in-time training. Indeed, taking an online RN to BSN doesn't just require knowing about healthcare industry trends, but also the ability to adapt as a teacher, an analyst, or even a leader in the healthcare sector. It is this type of education that will equip future nurses with skills required in the digitalization of healthcare.
Some medical institutions might require more hands-on assistance in the implementation of new telehealth programs
Too many healthcare organizations hold the same misconceptions in regards to the digital shift to telehealth — namely that simply installing the right software will bring instant positive results. Well, this couldn't be further from the truth. Successfully migrating one's services to an online platform requires plenty of planning, troubleshooting, and re-evaluation. In short, one cannot rush a digital transformation.To fully embrace a culture of telehealth, medical institutions need to first rethink their business model as it will likely need some tweaking to fit a telehealth program. After, they must implement a whole slew of systematic changes and employee programs to incorporate the new telehealth-related processes and educate the staff on how to go about said processes. But it doesn't stop there. Once telehealth services are in place, it's a continuous process of getting feedback and improving the current system. The primary goal of healthcare, after all, is to tend to its patients. To do that with telehealth, one needs an efficient program in place.There have been leaps and bounds in the use of telehealth in the post-COVID-19 world. It's one of the few silver linings to come out of this global health crisis. Even so, there's still much to be done in terms of its improvement, and nurses have much to offer in this regard.Article contributed by Rose JulianExclusively for keonahealth.com
About Keona Health
At Keona Health, we believe that relationships matter. We know that a clinic’s triage system can test a patient-doctor relationship, especially if a patient cannot easily get the help he or she is seeking. Keona Health offers healthcare software and automation solutions to ease the burden of telephone triage on medical practices and help medical professionals better communicate with patients.