As we reflect on another year, this winter is showing us that contagious viruses are anything but ghosts of the pandemic past. While we did anticipate a significant flu season based on our Australian counterparts’ experiences, the amount of sick kids and ill calls is still taking us all by storm. We’re just a few weeks into winter, and pediatric practices are already being hit hard. Clinicians are busy answering questions and offering medical advice for parents whose children are exhibiting symptoms consistent with flu, COVID, RSV, common colds, and more.
It’s safe to say that everyone thought 2020 and 2021 were outliers in strange and difficult winters, but 2022 is reminding us that winter has always been a challenging time of year in healthcare. Still, telemedicine has proven especially helpful during peak cold and flu season by allowing practitioners to see more patients in less time. In addition, nurse triage has helped to reduce overall healthcare costs and unnecessary emergency room visits, providing consistent and appropriate medical advice when pediatric offices are closed.
As we set our planninng for 2023, it’s important to take a look back and process what we’ve learned about virtual care over the past 12 months. In this blog, we’ll be summarizing lessons learned in 2022, and we’ll look forward to 2023 to apply what we’ve discovered.
Lessons Learned in 2022
Telemedicine has progressively improved since it became an alternative form of providing care in 2020. At that time, telehealth appointments were for those who could not be seen in the office because they were in quarantine from exposure or were having ill symptoms themselves.
Since then, virtual appointments have been helpful in a variety of settings. Telehealth has become a more convenient way to offer healthcare, especially for working parents. They do not have to choose between their wages and their child’s health. In addition, their children miss less educational time if they can have a video visit before or after school.
Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned in 2022 is that telehealth is appropriate for a variety of concerns — for both office visits and after-hours nurse triage. The top five reasons for a telehealth visit in 2022 were:
- Behavioral health follow-up
- Medication check
- Cold symptoms
- Eye pus or discharge
Meanwhile, the top five reasons for a nurse triage call in 2022 were:
- Cold symptoms
- Medication question
- Fever in a child 3 months or older
- Vomiting without diarrhea
Another lesson? We determined that nurse triage can help patients stay in the medical home when they are experiencing ill symptoms and reduce superfluous emergency room visits.
What Did 2022 Teach Us About Patient Compliance?
Patient compliance is always a popular topic among pediatricians. For many families, it’s difficult to follow doctors’ orders due to time or money constraints. This is especially true when parents have to miss work to bring their sick kids in for an office visit. Over the last year, there has been a 12 percent growth rate in the number of clinicians on the Anytime Pediatrics telemedicine platforms. Adding telehealth provides parents with options. In fact, a study from March 2021 showed that telehealth facilitated increased levels of engagement among pediatric patients. Additionally, it resulted in a drop in the rate of missing appointments.
Another strategy that helps with patient compliance is an after-hours service, such as Anytime After Hours. This nurse triage service allows parents to call your after-hours exchange and speak with a licensed medical professional — nurses who have emergency room experience and use Schmitt Thompson protocols. Your patients are receiving accurate medical care, and parents get reassurance on their child’s medical condition. Nurse triage calls can also be turned into video visits when necessary, meaning your patients are able to stay in the medical home, which ultimately improves both patient compliance and the patient care experience.
Since 2021, Anytime After Hours nurse triage calls have increased at an astounding growth rate of 993 percent. More than 30 nurses covering 38 states currently work for Anytime After Hours – making nurse triage accessible to pediatric practices across the country.
What Can We Expect for Telehealth in 2023?
Although there has been a slight decrease in telemedicine visits in 2022, compared to the years with severe COVID disease, we are sure that telehealth is here to stay in pediatrics. We are seeing usage that matches or beats usage in 2021. Comparing November 2021 to November 2022, there was a 24 percent growth in the number of telehealth visits. Thirty-five states are utilizing Anytime Pediatrics telehealth services.
These numbers show that telemedicine is an ideal complimentary service to in-person visits, with many benefits for pediatric practices, families, and children. While behavioral health is consistently the top reason for a telehealth visit, virtual care continues to be incorporated into general and specialty care processes and procedures. Finally, a knowledgeable after-hours platform also improves patient outcomes and reduces the burden on emergency personnel. As long as health insurance payers continue to cover telehealth services, we are sure there will only be a rise in virtual care in 2023.
For more information on how Anytime Pediatrics can help your pediatric practice meet its business goals in 2023, contact us today to request a consultation.