Though the healthcare scene has been changing for a while, new technology and recent events have significantly increased the demand for healthcare options outside of the traditional in-person, appointment-based model.
Currently, patients are seeking medical attention in new ways – at-home or drive-through tests, wearable and other digital healthcare devices, telehealth appointments, in-home visits, online messaging platforms allowing for quick communication with providers, and so much more.
When it comes to patient desires and demands, we’ve seen the following key trends:
If you’ve had an in-office appointment in the last few years, like many others, you may feel it can be inconvenient at times. With the need to book far in advance, time away from work, long commutes, and excessive amounts of time in the waiting room, patients are realizing it’s time for a change. The availability of continuous care – technology that enables both patients and providers to consistently monitor patients’ health – is already improving the patient experience, whether it’s in the workplace, at home, at school, or even on the go.
Physical and Financial Accessibility
Not only can office visits be inconvenient, but they can also lead to accessibility problems and higher patient costs. Many patients seeking medical attention find it physically difficult to go to a facility, whether it’s due to an illness, age, recovery time from surgery, or a disability. Not to mention, reliable transportation for patients is not always a given. Lastly, the added cost for in-patient appointments, tests, and chronic condition monitoring can cause issues for some patients, whether or not they have insurance. People are starting to gravitate to options like lower cost self-tests from Walgreens and using at home devices to help monitor their health.
Another benefit of healthcare options outside the clinic is the decreased likelihood of waiting room contamination. By allowing patients to speak with providers at home through home visits, online messaging platforms, or telemedicine, there is more separation between those with and without an illness. These healthcare alternatives minimize opportunities for patient crossover contamination by spacing out in-person appointments, alternating between virtual visits and face-to-face meetings.
Non-clinic-based healthcare gives patients (like those with dementia who benefit from a sense of autonomy but often require help from others) more independence, while also making family involvement easier when desired. The increase in healthcare options that can be utilized outside a standard appointment-based clinic visit allows patients to treat themselves at home or contact a doctor virtually, with and without family involvement. This offers them more independence in a comfortable environment, and has the added benefit of a positive effect on the patient’s mental well-being and healing.
Self-Triage & Increased Access to Professional Triage
Not only does care outside the clinic benefit the patient, but it also has positive impacts on the healthcare system as a whole. Over a third of emergency room visits are non-emergent and can be solved by a primary care physician. The problem is, health related issues don’t only happen on weekdays from 9am to 5pm. As a result, patients are overwhelming the ER with non-emergent needs, leading to longer wait times for real emergencies, higher costs for patients who are recommended to have unnecessary tests, and overburdening the staff. By offering more alternatives to in-office care, patients will seek out options other than the emergency room, such as online applications, telehealth visits, or medical devices.