Video conferencing in healthcare has been used for decades. One example is telemedicine, a tool that’s been around in some form or another since the 1950's to diagnose and treat patients – albeit much less effectively than with today’s video technology. Doctors have used medical video conferencing to facilitate communication with patients and other providers for decades. However, it took a global pandemic for the benefits of video conferencing in healthcare to really catch on. The use of video conferencing since COVID-19 hit has skyrocketed.
What are the uses of video conferencing in healthcare these days?
Benefits of Video Conferencing in Healthcare
Healthcare has always been technology oriented, so the increasing adoption of video conferencing just makes sense. Medical video conferencing, no matter how it’s used, can increase the quality of patient care while still keeping costs low. It’s a convenient service for patients who have physical illnesses, many of which make mobility difficult.
Healthcare providers can provide video support to patients who have serious chronic illnesses and need constant monitoring. Instead of forcing these elderly or infirm patients to travel to a doctor’s office, video conferencing allows the easy sharing of information between a clinical team and their patient all in the comfort of their home.
Healthcare video conferencing can also extend our reach to rural communities, where doctors are in short supply. There are 218 counties in the U.S. where there are no doctors. Without video conferencing, these patients must travel (sometimes great distances) to receive care.
In a sense, video conferencing allows doctors to make a virtual house call, conveniently and quickly triaging illnesses and diagnosing common illnesses like the flu that might otherwise end up in the ER, which is the costliest point of entry into our nation’s healthcare system.
Another benefit of video conferencing in healthcare is for the medical professionals themselves. Clinicians are required to keep up with their continuing medical education (CMEs), but now they can do this online without having to travel to a conference. Healthcare video conferencing also brings together primary care with specialty providers in consults, which is highly beneficial for the coordination of patient care.
All of these activities have occurred in healthcare for years, but in a very limited way. Patients and doctors just seemed to be more comfortable with the traditional office visit. It was during COVID that the real benefits of video conferencing in healthcare came to the forefront of our attention—and use of video conferencing skyrocketed.
Uses of Video Conferencing in Healthcare
1. Socializing patients. Before COVID-19, it was widely recognized in clinical studies that having a visit from a loved one positively affected healthcare outcomes for patients. This became a big problem during the COVID pandemic, due to the necessary quarantine protocols required to keep everyone safe from spreading the illness. In modern times, U.S. healthcare teams had never faced the isolating effects of patient care during a global pandemic.
Providers turned to video conferencing to bring family members into the ICU virtually, without increasing the risk of infection. One study concluded, “Addressing barriers to facilitate better communication in the ICU is a priority area to enhance patient safety, as well as promote optimal interaction and patient satisfaction.” During the pandemic, video conferencing became the go-to tool for healthcare providers, patients, and families.
The CDC spelled out COVID protocols to include the use of medical video conferencing. They state, “Healthcare systems have had to adjust the way they triage, evaluate, and care for patients using methods that do not rely on in-person services.” The idea was that using video conferencing in healthcare could increase social distancing and reduce potential infection. They suggest these uses for video conferencing in healthcare during COVID-19:
2. Prescreening patients who have flu symptoms to determine if they need to be referred to a hospital. This was highly effective at keeping potential COVID patients out of crowded waiting rooms and away from other patients.
3. Providing low-risk virtual urgent care for any non-COVID conditions and to refer as necessary. This could include anything from a sprained back to nausea and vomiting. The idea was to keep people out of the ER and a doctor’s waiting room by triaging the patient’s symptoms virtually. Then, if an x-ray or further treatment requiring a patient encounter was needed, the clinician could make the referral or schedule the appointment.
4. Offering mental and behavioral health counseling virtually, along with nutrition counseling and weight management. This was particularly important, as our sense of isolation increased as COVID dragged on.
5. Monitoring chronic illnesses such as blood pressure or blood glucose for diabetes. This is particularly important, because six in 10 American adults have a chronic disease and four in 10 have more than one chronic illness that requires constant monitoring and care.
6. Providing case management for patients who have limited mobility or that live in rural settings.
7. Following up with patients after a hospital stay. Many procedures require regular checks or other types of patient monitoring after the surgery or hospital stay. Video conferencing can help keep tabs on remote patients and even potentially keep them from having to readmit to the hospital after they’ve been released.
8. Offering advance care directives planning or counseling to patients and their families to document their preferences during end-of-life care.
9. Providing a bedside doctor’s visit to a nursing home or an assisted living residence without putting the patient or doctor at risk of spreading COVID. Even after COVID, medical video conferencing can assist long term care patients in this way.
10. Offering peer-to-peer education and training to residents and other healthcare professionals, as well as outpatient or inpatient consultations.
Video conferencing can also be used in schools to provide nursing care to students. It can be used in prisons to provide telehealth services to inmates. Medical video conferencing can and has been used in businesses when there is an on-the-job safety incident that requires immediate treatment.
These days, just about everyone has experienced the benefits of video conferencing in healthcare services. MegaMeeting is proud to provide HIPAA-compliant medical video conferencing that is secure, reliable, and effective. Contact us today to apply video conferencing in healthcare to your practice.
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