The critical role of telehealth and technology in the 'new normal'

Due to a scattered and fearful workforce, there has been a significant uptake of telehealth services since the outbreak of COVID-19, and healthcare providers have scaled their solutions to expand their scope of delivery.

According to a recent Which50 article, research forecasts a 64% growth of the telehealth market as employers look for new and innovative ways to manage the health of their workforces remotely. Virtual care, such as tele-medicine, tele-physio, tele-psych, remote patient monitoring, and virtual visits, will become the norm.

While mental health workers and doctors have been treating remote patients for quite some time, even hands-on treatments, like physiotherapy, are being innovated to provide a remote option. These are services employers can draw on to help manage the health and mental health of their workforces, in-house and remotely.

On a global scale, governments and insurers have changed funding models and eased restrictions on eligibility criteria for telehealth services so they might be rolled out rapidly in the face of increasing demand.

Healthcare providers are also starting to consider their long term strategy in relation to telehealth, particularly in relation to which services will continue post COVID-19, what additional opportunities exist, and what are the underlying technology and support requirements necessary to sustain these services over time.

There is a clear need to provide companies with technology to track and manage absenteeism and workplace injuries, and provide virtual physio consultations in particular for injury management and pre-employment screening. There is also a need for anxious or sick employees to have an avenue to the most current support, including tele-psych services, so that they can receive the care and support when they need it.

Companies also require an early intervention injury management program delivered by an independent third party, to coordinate a holistic care plan for both physical or mental issues. If, for example, an employee has a sore neck, the service can offer a virtual ergonomic assessment, coordinate a virtual tele-consult, and arrange a virtual exercise physiologist appointment for self-management exercises. Similarly, if the employee is struggling emotionally, then they can talk to a tele-psych for counselling support.

With work related injuries on the rise, and a pandemic to manage, there is a pressing need to offer workers access to a hassle-free service at any time of the day or night. Companies are introducing a central number to report COVID-19 exposure, illness or injury around the clock, with immediate nurse triage and medical advice. It is important to offer real-time notification of illness and injuries to management to eliminate lag time, as well as robust follow-up procedures. There needs to be real-time records of all illnesses and injuries, their status and transparency of activities, and reporting on patterns and trends.

With winter pending and the easing of restrictions around the corner, companies will need to put tougher work, health and safety measures in place. Direct Health Solutions is taking active measures to innovate its telehealth and technology offerings, so companies can boost the health and safety of their workers during COVID-19, and beyond.

Integrating these types of platforms means companies can make evidence-based decisions and enhance their end-to-end business continuity strategy, with mitigating risk and keeping employees happier.

Providing immediate access to tele-nurses, tele-doctors, tele-physios and tele-psychs as well as a mixed digital solution, provides enormous relief not only for the anxious employee needing medical advice and support, but also for employers needing to look after the health and wellbeing of their workforce for business longevity.

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