James Sept-Oct 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 28
he pandemic has required us all to adjust our
routines in different ways, and many trends that
emerged as a result of COVID-19 are here to stay. Telehealth and other digital health solutions— while not new
prior to the pandemic— are now a regular part of the
healthcare experience. In a matter of weeks, the widespread adoption— and success— of telehealth as a safe
and effective option for healthcare delivery and access became the norm. Now, virtual doctor’s visits are no longer an
alternative, they are an expectation and they are transforming healthcare delivery in positive and meaningful ways.
SEPTEMBER/ OCTOB E R 2021
COVID-19: THE GREAT ACCELERATOR
COVID-19 has accelerated many innovations, and
telehealth is among the most significant in terms of
healthcare delivery and consumer access. Just four weeks
into the pandemic, 60 percent of Wellstar providers were
using telehealth solutions for virtual patient visits— a
rollout that occurred nearly a year faster than originally planned. In fact, Wellstar providers have conducted
235,500 video visits from March 2020 through June 2021.
COVID-19 also accelerated the removal of many
barriers to telehealth. Prior to 2020, telehealth for patients
receiving outpatient services was virtually
nonexistent in part because of limited insurance coverage and provider reimbursements. When COVID-19 hit and virtual
health became an imperative to healthcare
access, waivers and other exceptions were
approved for insurers to cover telehealth for
patients and for providers to be reimbursed
as if they were delivering care in person.
The passage of The Georgia Telehealth Act— a bill carried by state Rep.
Sharon Cooper and Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick,
M.D.— was also a significant and welcome milestone in removing barriers and
advancing telehealth services. The bill
extended privileges that were allowed
during the pandemic and made them permanent, including allowing physicians to
provide telehealth services from home and
patients to receive services from home,
workplace, or school.
CONVENIENT, ACCESSIBLE CARE
Though COVID-19 necessitated that physicians and
patients adapt to virtual care, now it’s a choice many
patients prefer. In fact, nearly 70 percent of our patients
who receive outpatient mental health services currently
choose video visits over in-person visits. We see this trend
across all our services: This year’s number of video visits systemwide is expected to surpass those of 2020. An
added benefit is that our appointment no-show rate has
drastically declined. Maybe it’s relief from fighting traffic or time saved by staying home, but virtual visits give
many people a level of comfort— and convenience— they
didn’t have before the pandemic.
Virtual visits also help people who can’t easily access
care. Our physicians can better serve Georgians who live
in rural areas, who can’t drive or access transportation, or
who have mobility issues. Of the video visits we’ve had
this year, approximately 70 percent are with patients who
are between 45-84 years old. Regardless of our patients’
comfort level or familiarity with technology, we have resources and processes to equip patients and providers to
ensure we are meeting Georgians where they are so they
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get the care they need.
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