Benefits of Telehealth in the Age of COVID-19

October 13, 2020 by

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, providers across all fields had to adapt their services to deliver safe, effective prevention and treatment across their communities. Although telehealth technology has been widely available for years, organizations only sporadically adopted this method until recently (see our latest post about rising telehealth insurance claims). Given the current frequency of use, especially among behavioral health providers, it is important to understand the benefits of telehealth as this may be a valuable way of providing care for years to come.

One of the most apparent benefits of telehealth is increased access across all populations; the ability to engage in a telehealth session from anywhere is particularly useful for people who live in rural areas, families who are unable to access childcare, clients with limited mobility, and those who navigate busy work schedules. This increased access may help overcome stigma attached to care, particularly for behavioral health services. For example, clients may be more willing to attend virtual counseling if they are experiencing stigma physically entering a drug and alcohol facility for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) treatment.

In addition to equitable access to care and reduction of stigma, telehealth can strengthen the relationship between providers and their clients through increased client engagement and continuity of services.  Although local providers suggest that the benefits of telehealth are dependent on how engaged clients are in services, virtual visits may reassure clients that their providers are available and involved in their care, as well as making it easier for them to reach out with questions, report early warning signs, and make follow-up appointments. Additionally, telehealth fosters client-provider relationships by offering continuity of care if a client or practice moves locations.

Given that telehealth can increase access to care, reduce stigma, and strengthen client-provider relationships, this service platform can improve and maintain client retention and attendance. For example, clients who feel their providers are invested in their care may be more likely to regularly attend sessions and stay within that organization. As a result, telehealth can be more cost effective by reducing no-show clients, limiting overhead costs, turning on-call hours into billable time, and allowing providers to have a flexible work schedule. Telehealth can also be more cost effective for clients; they save on transportation costs and time, childcare fees in some circumstances, and fewer follow-up appointments.

Although it is important to address potential barriers (stay tuned for our October blog post), the advantages of telehealth are particularly evident in the age of Covid-19. These benefits will continue even when more in-person visits are allowed, as the utility and usage of this platform will only increase in upcoming months and years.