Meri Brick|11/4/2021|5 min read

How Telehealth Is Changing Primary Care

The backbone of healthcare


Primary care physicians (PCPs) are the backbone of healthcare. Although other specialists and providers play an integral part in delivering essential care to patients, PCPs are traditionally the most trusted medical professionals in a patient’s life.

The issue? PCPs and patients alike are facing some serious challenges when it comes to primary care delivery. But have no fear, telehealth is here!

The challenges

Clinician shortage

The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2034, we will have a primary care provider shortfall between 17,800 and 48,000 physicians. The main areas that are being affected by this shortage are rural parts of the United States. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for patients in these communities to receive primary and specialty care, some have to drive hours away and take a day off of work just to be seen.

This issue is caused by a lack of job opportunities for spouses of healthcare professionals and fewer resources for physicians in rural communities. Although this shortage is strongly affecting these areas, it is impacting the US as a whole. One of the largest contributors to this nationwide shortage is clinician burnout.

Clinician burnout

Physician burnout has been a consistent issue in the healthcare industry that was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, it was reported by the National Academy of Medicine that 35% of nurses and 54% of doctors have had symptoms of burnout. Those numbers have only increased since the toll the pandemic left on frontline workers.

There are many factors that contribute to clinician burnout. One of the main ones is the stress they carry on a daily basis. Whether it’s treating patients that are scared and sick or nearing the end of their lives. That can place a huge toll on the mental health of healthcare workers. Other factors that have been reported by clinicians include:

  • Feeling rushed and pressed for time during visits due to overwhelming patient demand

  • The chaotic environment within hospitals

  • Working long and irregular hours that cut into personal and sleep time

When a provider is experiencing symptoms of burnout, patients are affected as well. Clinician burnout results in reduced productivity and a higher risk of turnover. On top of that, it increases the risk of medical errors, low patient satisfaction, malpractice, poor quality of care and negative patient outcomes.

This is where we introduce the ways telehealth is combating these challenges in primary care.

Telehealth saves the day

The large growth of virtual care and the increased development of telehealth technology came at the perfect time. With the predicted primary care provider shortage in the future, the reach telemedicine gives providers may be what turns the tide.

Telehealth allows providers to see patients that are hours away. Now, telehealth doesn’t waive the licensing requirement to see patients in a specific state. The provider needs to be licensed in the state the patient lives in to provide care for them. But, the provider can now see any patient in the state they are licensed in. This helps reduce that predicted shortage, especially for states that have a large rural population.

Now comes the clinician burnout dilemma. Good news! Telehealth can help alleviate those burnout symptoms as well. Providers that practice using telehealth have noted that they have more control over their schedule which means a better work/life balance. No longer are they assigned a night shift or put on call over the weekends unless they decide too.

Now that we’ve covered how telehealth can help overcome these challenges in healthcare, let’s talk about what benefits it brings providers and patients.

Provider benefits

Providers are seeing many benefits, on top of helping relieve burnout, that are bringing more and more healthcare professionals to practice in the industry:

1. Decrease in illness exposure

As we are all well aware, the COVID-19 virus is still floating around with no signs of it saying its final goodbye anytime soon. Plus, even vaccinated individuals, although it is rare, aren’t fully immune to getting infected. With fewer patients having to come into hospitals to see their doctor, the risk of spreading the virus and other illnesses decreases significantly. This makes the workplace much safer for healthcare professionals so they can continue to treat patients in need of care

2. More time back in their day

There are fewer required steps in a virtual visit than a traditional office visit. This gives providers more time back in their day to get that much-needed break between patients and time to catch up on updating records if needed

3. High patient satisfaction

Research has shown that patients are reporting high satisfaction using telehealth. A survey conducted by Chiricahua Community Health Centers reported that 87% of patients were satisfied with telehealth and believed the quality of care they received was just as good or better than an in-person appointment. With all the added benefits telehealth gives providers plus high satisfaction from patients, what's not to like?

Patient benefits

Telehealth doesn’t only bring benefits to providers. Patients are seeing many perks from seeing their primary care physician virtually (when it’s an option through their provider).

1. Convenience

Virtual care is becoming a game-changer for people who don’t have the ability to travel or who can’t find the time to block hours out of their day for their appointments. Patients can get care in the comfort of their own home, in their office at work or even in their car with telehealth

2. Improved access to care

As mentioned earlier, access to healthcare is a huge issue for rural communities across the US. Having to travel to see a doctor, sometimes hours away, is a huge inconvenience. This means having to take time off work, organizing childcare for parents and more money spent on travel to and from the appointments. Telehealth allows patients to see their providers without having to travel hours away to receive care

3. Lower costs

As discussed in the prior benefit, using virtual care to receive care when available lowers costs for the patient. How, you ask? Removing the commuting time to get too and from the appointment means far fewer expenses such as gas and childcare.

With the benefits that telehealth brings to primary care and the healthcare industry as a whole, it’s the perfect time to break into the telehealth space and start treating patients looking for primary care virtually.

OpenLoop intro

Are you a clinician looking for virtual primary care opportunities or opportunities in other specialties at top digital health companies? If you answered yes, you’ve landed in the right place! Join the top clinician network at OpenLoop.

The OpenLoop clinician network is comprised of the most skilled clinicians from across the United States. Over 6,500 healthcare professionals spanning many specialties have joined our network and filled shifts for our clients in all 50 states. On top of finding telehealth opportunities that match our clinician’s specialties, we personally match you with clients that align with your values and companies that YOU want to work with.

Some other perks of joining the OpenLoop network include...

  • Having complete control over your schedule

  • Working with leading digital health companies in the industry

  • Growing your knowledge of the telehealth industry and exposure to a variety of cases

  • Seeing job details and payment information before you accept the position

For companies

Are you a telehealth company searching for clinicians to fill shifts and serve your patients? We’d love to connect with you.

Partnering with us gives you access to our network of over 6,500 fully-vetted clinicians ready to serve your patient needs and deliver high-quality care. Not only do we give you access to our network, we match your organization with clinicians that align to your values, culture and patient needs for seamless continuity of care.

What does it mean to partner with us? We offer full-stack, whitelabeled telehealth support services to assist you wherever you need it the most across:

Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!