AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - While investment in Telehealth has been a conversation for years, the need to innovate virtual health care was accelerated by the pandemic.
After an increase in virtual medical appointments due to the pandemic, Amarillo health care professionals say Telehealth is here to stay and are making investments to support it.
“Telehealth really got boosted during the pandemic because people were staying at home,” said Trevor Spradling, chief operations officer for BSA CareXpress Urgent Care. “We escalated our telemedicine services, and what were seeing now is that as the pandemic is starting to slow down, telemedicine is still here to stay because it’s very convenient option for patients. Specifically, our elderly population can’t always get out of the house...or parents with young babies.”
Healthcare experts say they are investing in software and digital platforms to support the future of telehealth.
Some providers are developing new software so check-in requirements such as insurance and a co-pay can all be done virtually.
“We are about to upgrade our telehealth platform,” said Rodney Young, chairman of family and community medicine at TTUHSC. “For example, if you were coming to see you might get an invitation to invite you to check in for your visit, in which case you would check in and do the things you’d normally do like verify your insurance is current and there might even be an option to make a co-pay you have and you could do that with a credit card.”
But when dealing with confidential information, healthcare providers must ensure these programs are secure.
“When a patient goes on and finds our website...they’re able to check in online and chose that telemedicine visit,” explained Spradling. “There’s a cost for it, of course, with any of it. With telemedicine, all of ours is HIPAA compliant, so we make sure that the patient’s identities and all their information is secure. So with that, you have an increase of cost.”
Experts hope investments in upgraded digital platforms make check-in steps seamless and easy to self-navigate.
“There is this process of trying to get those steps of what would normally happen at the front-end of a hospital visit. Those things still need to happen, so we need to figure out how to mirror the workflow that happens in an office visit to a virtual visit,” said Young.
Health care professionals are also undergoing webinars and training so they can best assist people during virtual visits.
At BSA CareXpress, medical staff is working to expand telehealth services so patients are less likely to call a national teledoc.
These providers are also learning key signs for when someone needs to come in for an appointment.
“Our medical director is really pushing training, how to identify what can be used in a telemedicine visit versus who needs to come in,” explained Spradling. “If someone calls in for a telemedicine visit with a tightness in their chest, that’s an automatic red flag they need to go to the emergency room.”
However, with education and technology gaps, not all patients are easily able to use utilize telehealth.
Area professionals say they are investing to make their virtual platforms easy to navigate for everyone.