In Federal Way, Washington, and across the country, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for a lot of bad stuff. But, if you look really hard and maybe squint just right, there are a few less-than-terrible things to be found.
- The pandemic forced society to adapt quickly.
- It pushed forward the adoption of new technologies like Zoom (online video meetings).
- We learned new ways of doing things, like working from home.
- There were changes in rules, regulations, and payment related to telehealth.
- Many patients and providers experienced their first virtual health appointment in the past two years, and many of them see the benefits.
The pandemic forced the telehealth genie from the bottle. Now that patients and providers have seen the benefits, we’re not going back.
Why Telehealth is Here to Stay
Whether you live or work in Federal Way, Washington, or Flagstaff, Arizona, telehealth won’t replace in-person rehab, but it will likely complement it heavily. Research shows that telehealth is as effective as in-person rehabilitation for many conditions. Patients give telehealth high satisfaction ratings – up to 94% in some studies. For many people, telehealth makes sense. Think about people trapped at home because of a snowstorm or those at high risk of falling on the ice. Before the wide adoption of telehealth, these patients didn’t get to see their physical therapist during the winter. Now, they can stay connected virtually and continue healing through the bad weather. Telehealth also works well for busy people. Patients can check in or have a visit with their PT on their lunch break or while their kids are at practice.
Where Telehealth Could Go
Even though there have been considerable advances in telehealth, we’re still in the early phases. It’s hard to predict how telehealth will be used in the future and how it will evolve, but expect it to look a lot different in 5 years.
- Telehealth software will continue to improve.
- Expect a more engaging user experience with educational content and maybe some gamification – levels to achieve, points or badges to collect, or other metrics.
- Hardware will also continue to advance.
- Perhaps the fitness tracker you already have will integrate into your telehealth app, letting your PT track your activity, heart rate, and other metrics.
- Remote stethoscopes, scales, and other medical equipment already exist and will become more common as prices decline.
While telehealth in Federal Way, Washington, and across the USA has undoubtedly seen a significant advance because of the pandemic, most people still see it as an adjunct to in-person visits. Right now, patients tend to use telehealth because it’s more convenient than a visit in real life, not because it’s better. With advances in software platforms and hardware options, telehealth could evolve into something just as good as in-person rehabilitation, making high-quality rehab available to everyone.