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The COVID-19 crisis forced healthcare (along with the rest of the world) to go remote.

Effective communication between healthcare professionals and patients has always been important, but global shutdowns created a wave of new pressures. As a result, healthcare communication tools came to the fore. Many people witnessed the power of innovative communication tools used in healthcare. Consequently, these communication tools are here to stay and will continue to reshape patient expectations into the future.

How COVID-19 has changed patient behavior

The COVID-19 pandemic had a twofold effect. One, it made people wary of visiting their healthcare providers or going to the hospital, for fear of contracting the disease. During the pandemic, both ER and outpatient visits have experienced a steep drop. The National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) reported a 42 percent dip in ER visits between March 29 and April 25. Outpatient visits dropped to 37 percent from March 14 to June 20, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

The flip side of this decline, however, produced the second big effect of the pandemic: the adoption and utilization of telehealth. As an example, a data report by WELL Health found that between February and April 2020, some health systems reported as high as 50x increases in telehealth visits.

There is also an uptick in the number of patients using telehealth to avail medical services, according to another study. Patients seeking primary care through telehealth rose from 80 percent in May to 85 percent in June 2020. Those seeking specialty care through telehealth also increased from 53 percent to 78 percent in the same period.

Patients want innovation

The upswing in the popularity of telehealth mirrors the rise of other sophisticated healthcare technologies. A good example is AI-driven healthcare. Providers may, in the future, be able to use predictive analytics to anticipate patient concerns. Machine learning researchers believe that AI could potentially outperform human surgeons by 2053. Moreover, IBM Watson Health has announced progress in cancer-care treatment through AI.

Most patients are excited by technological innovations that improve the delivery of healthcare. And now that the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the power of healthcare communication tools that facilitate effective telehealth, patients will expect these innovations to stay in place. From here on out, patients will be keen to see that their healthcare providers have optimized their remote operations.

We should expect patients to be unforgiving with these new expectations. According to research, poor lines of communication in healthcare make up about 53 percent of healthcare complaints. Being stuck on hold accounted for a majority of these complaints. After COVID-19, patients are likely to become even less tolerant of sub-par communication standards. Healthcare organizations expect the pandemic to persist for months, even years. Because of this, medical practitioners need to respond to the new patient expectations by providing effective communication for healthcare.

Healthcare communication tools are the future

During the COVID-19 crisis, many WELL users experienced firsthand how the platform facilitates effective communication between healthcare professionals and patients. WELL’s centralized patient communication and information platform helped providers reach patients through any channel—email, text, phone, or live chat. This allowed for seamless, real-time communication throughout the healthcare journey, despite the turbulent times.

In March and April, WELL clients processed over 18 million messages, providing patients with critical information about the coronavirus crisis. At the height of the crisis, WELL users reported a 78 percent rise in cancelled and rescheduled outpatient appointments and saw a 15-fold increase in virtual appointments.

Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles experienced firsthand the value of digital lines of communication in healthcare that come with a platform like WELL. Rescheduling 15,000 personal visits to virtual appointments seems impossible. But with WELL, the hospital successfully managed the impossible. Cedars-Sinai managed to reschedule all these appointments without adding extra manpower.

Now that both providers and patients have seen how healthcare communication tools can improve the patient experience, and make the entire process more efficient on both sides, there will be no going back.

Providers need to adapt

During the COVID-19 crisis, communication tools used in healthcare have come to the fore. Without them, some providers would have been incapable of coping with the demands of the pandemic. As patients have experienced the efficiency and efficacy of new telehealth solutions, it is crucial that providers stay competitive by adjusting to these new expectations. If they don’t, patients who have seen how effective tools like WELL are will abandon them for another provider.

Contact WELL Health today to see how a full-solution communication for healthcare can help you and your patients. ♥