With the COVID-19 pandemic now relegated to the history books, researchers are starting to study its impact on a variety of things, including how Americans gained access to healthcare services. One of the more recently released studies seems to suggest that telehealth can improve patient retention. Their conclusion was based on how telemedicine was used during the pandemic.
The study focused entirely on HIV patients who tend to rely heavily on regular consultations with their doctors to maintain optimal health. As was the case across all of healthcare during the early stages of the pandemic, retention of those patients dropped off. But once clinicians began utilizing telemedicine visits, retention increased once again.
More Important in Some Cases
It goes without saying that retention is more important in some cases than in others. In the case of a healthy young adult whose life does not include a lot of risk factors, retention is not seen a big deal. If that young person cancels an appointment or fails to make a new one, there’s usually no harm done. But in the case of HIV patients, cancer patients, and even psychiatric patients, retention is critical.
Doctors and patients need to regularly consult in these more serious cases for obvious reasons. So for them, retention really isn’t an option. If the means by which they normally visit with their doctors is suddenly unavailable, an alternative is necessary. Telemedicine is one such alternative.
An Adequate Alternative
Telemedicine is also an adequate alternative when retention involves mostly consultations. Whether it is an HIV or psychiatric patient, in-person visits are not always necessary, especially when there are no special tests or diagnostics that need to be performed.
CSI Health, a San Antonio telehealth manufacturer company that designs and builds telemedicine screening solutions, says that even diagnostic concerns are being alleviated through technology. All their telemedicine solutions include a variety of on-board diagnostic tools including blood pressure cuff, thermometer, stethoscope, sonogram, and even ECG/EKG.
It boils down to this: so many medical appointments involve little more than a face-to-face consultation. Any special tests a doctor orders are taken care of in a separate facility. So for the consultation portion, telemedicine is often more than adequate.
Maintaining Contact Is Important
Connecting all of this to the previously mentioned study leads back to the idea of maintaining contact with one’s doctor. The study, published in the AIDS and Behavior journal, revealed that pre-pandemic retention among HIV patients was about 72% as compared to just over 51% during the pandemic.
Yes, retention rates dropped off significantly during the pandemic as a whole. But researchers found that much of the reduction was the result of appointments being canceled in the early stages. Retention began to rebound with the adoption of telemedicine.
The study also revealed that patients who maintained contact with their doctors through telemedicine said that it was extremely helpful. No surprises there. Patients who are already used to consulting with their doctors on a regular basis would want to continue doing so even if they could not get to the office. That is exactly what telemedicine does for them.
You Do Whatever It Takes
The researchers’ ultimate conclusion was that telemedicine should be further developed in order to give patients more retention options. It is hard to argue with that conclusion.
When it comes to healthcare, you do whatever it takes to maintain whatever level of health you desire. If that means visiting with your doctor online because going to the office is not an option, that’s what you do. If nothing else, the COVID pandemic has made that point abundantly clear.