COVID-19 imposed many challenges for the healthcare sector. Fears of contracting the virus led many patients to cancel in-person visits, generating large demand for telehealth and virtual care. While telehealth technologies are not new, they have long been discussed. However, the pandemic forced providers to quickly implement virtual care options to support the patient demand, advancing the use of this technology “seven years in the last seven months”1. This especially makes access to care easier for the older population that may prefer to receive care at home.

In a study, 60% of patients report the desire to continue receiving healthcare through telehealth methods, citing the care felt more personal, convenient, and timely2. Rather than need to travel into the doctor’s office, patients were happy with the ability to revive quality care in an environment they feel most comfortable in. Plus, 90% report that the level of care they received was as good or even better than traditional in-person care. With the overwhelmingly positive response to telehealth, the technology will continue to be an asset and change the way people receive care far into the future.

As telehealth adoption rapidly grew, remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies were implemented to monitor patients at home. With RPM, continuous monitoring and frequent check-ins allow physicians to intervene early when necessary. This created a fundamental shift, patients are incentivized to stay healthy, and with real-time monitoring, patients are evaluated more than at 3, 6, 9, or 12-month intervals. Continuous data, like blood pressure, weight, or blood sugar levels, give physicians the data they need to understand the patient’s health.

Beyond meeting the patients’ needs, the combination of telehealth and RPM will decrease inefficiencies experienced by home health providers. Rather than having set home health visits, patients can be seen only when necessary since these tools allow for constant and effective communication between patients and providers. Sick patients can be seen as soon as they begin to display signs of illness, while healthy patients can forgo seeing a physician. When a home visit is necessary, RPM enables providers to have all necessary documentation needed to justify the visit3.

On top of the healthcare industry and patients realizing the value of telehealth and RPM, government agencies are getting on board as well. The USDA is investing $42.3 million to 86 programs, many of which include “connected health programs”4. These programs are designed to expand and support many healthcare programs, a major of which deliver telehealth to rural and underserved communities. At a critical time in the development of these programs, funding is imperative to continue to positive momentum and expand care to serve more patients.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, telehealth and RPM rose to meet the changing demands of patients around the country. Through more effective and efficient care, patient health is encouraged, and physicians can more easily collect the data needed for support. Rapid innovation and implementation of telehealth have already generated positive results, so it will be interesting to see where this technology leads in the future.