In his 1911 paper “The Dawn of the Health Age”, Dr Benjamin Moore was one of the first to use the phrase ‘National Health Service’. A visionary UK physician whose pioneering thoughts would take a further 37 years to win the support of a sitting Labour government. Yet its eventual introduction came, in no small part, because of the experience of the second World War. The idea needed a catalyst to gain government attention and drive public consensus; for patients to receive treatment based on their need, not their wealth, for free.
There are some parallels in my mind, with our government’s recent funding announcement for healthcare. In particular Telehealth, as it’s a topic which is not new, but recent events have catapulted the issue into the public forum again. I’ll admit, it’s not quite on the same scale as the NHS, but it will have a similar lasting impact, in changing how people in this country receive care long after the current crisis abates.
Limited to Date
Until recently Telehealth has been held back by a number of loosely connected factors.
We’ve seen pilot schemes on a very small and limited scale, which haven’t been deemed worthy of funding to roll out. Partly because of the network effect with the benefits only truly appreciated at mass scale but also due to a lack of incentivised parties and technology adoption amongst some older participants. The incentives are there now. For health providers, Telehealth is vital to be able to do their job with restricted access to patients.
There were rules about what a doctor could and could not see a patient for via video.
Historically, getting devices into the hands of end users was hard. However, health monitoring solutions are a widespread consumer-driven trend now as we track our own health with more digital support. Through the proliferation of technology we’ve even had aged care homes offering tablets to residents during Covid-19 lock downs. It really has provided the catalyst for behavioural change, as residents that wish to see their family have no other choice but to learn how to use the technology.
This is all coming together now, with government incentives around Telehealth to support widespread usage, and it has the potential to alleviate the pressures on the whole healthcare system. Globally, governments have been forced into changes given the new social limitations, so there’s a chance for health providers to prove this approach can work beyond the current September deadlines of when temporary measures are expected to be removed. I believe it will change how healthcare is administered long after the current crisis subsides.
We see a lot of health outcomes impacted due to the inability for customers to access their health teams when needed. However, with teleconferencing, the customer can speak to a professional in their own manner, whether that’s on a device while they’re still in bed, or sitting at a dining room table.
Access has also been another issue previously. If you’re in a rural area which requires a professional to fly in to see you, that visit is likely to be sporadic at best. Imagine this approach on a global scale and now people in mobile-first developing nations could access healthcare via their device. It could mean the difference between getting the help they need or missing out completely. Some simply don’t have the means to get to a specialist, so Telehealth can not just provide an alternative, but rather a primary pathway.
Right now in aged care, a case manager spends around 25 per cent of their daily role travelling. Typically this means they can only see four patients. This is inefficient, by anyone’s measure. I expect the number of non visit-based interventions will increase and we’ll see wait times for those in care drop significantly as a result.
We’ve already seen the improvement in air quality as a result of a third of the world’s population being locked down. I’m hoping we’ll see travel reduced in many sectors, including aged care. The reduction in patient visits, would allow support workers to work from home if preferred. This may not always be possible, but I’d expect to see some overhaul of how customer care is delivered.
As the current climate is forcing businesses to innovate their models, new and non visit based approaches to healthcare are the cornerstones to the future viability of our healthcare system, not only Telehealth.
It’s going to be up to health providers to double down on efforts during this period, to ensure the level of customer care remains high. I believe it will offer providers the opportunity to show what’s really possible. This will draw vast efficiencies across the funding types, therefore allowing customers to receive new and innovative programs to help them remain independent.
Not only that but improved health outcomes, through the likes of self monitoring, will ultimately increase.
Coming out of the other end, if approaches to delivering care are altered and prove successful, we hope to see the government keep the option for Telehealth open for those that need it.
Greg Satur is the co-founder of award winning aged care platform hayylo, helping the world’s best health teams communicate and engage
With Hayylo’s resent release of video conferencing across the platform, providers across the country are now able to provide these capabilities as part of their usually operating workflows. Enabled for customers, families and support teams, this latest Hayylo offering now comes standard and part of hayylos core customer experience platform.