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Digital Services Have Come to Healthcare to Stay

Last year 2020 was a period of history after which many things in life will not fully return to the same it used to be. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the healthcare sector and its professionals hard.

During the first wave healthcare sector and social services were plunged into crisis. As often happens in a crisis, after an initial shock there was a shift to rapid action towards adaptation.

How to continue important work of professionals with patients and customers in a changed situation?

The need to avoid physical contact forced service providers to look for quick alternative solutions and operating models to keep operations going as normal as possible and thus guarantee people access to healthcare and social services. Patterns of action changed literally overnight.

The change in Finland was facilitated by the rapid transformation that has generally taken place in remote communication. Finland switched to remote mode with both schoolchildren and big part of employees. The use of various remote communication solutions became commonplace on a very fast schedule. At Movendos, this has been reflected in a growing number of customers, and we already have more than 100 occupational healthcare providers, medical centers, rehabilitation units and associations using our services.

The number of remote receptions exploded

In March and April 2020, the use of remote health care and chat-based counseling services rose sharply worldwide due to the pandemic. According to a recent study by the non-profit organization FAIR Health in the United States, the number of remote appointments in the United States increased by as much as 4,000 % during the first months of the pandemic. In Geisinger, Pennsylvania, USA, the number of remote receptions increased by 500 % in the first few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Seattle-based Providence Health says it received more than a million messages from its clients through the care chatbot during the first month of the pandemic’s outbreak. The figure is 10 to 15 times the pre-pandemic level.


Very similar growth figures were also seen in the growth figures of Movendos customers' remote receptions.

Crises offer an opportunity for renewal

Clearly, when used smartly, remote healthcare solutions offer many opportunities. Olavi Timonen, Licentiate of Medicine, estimated in his dissertation reviewed at the University of Oulu, Finland, more than ten years ago that 75 % of non-selective primary care patients could be treated by remote doctor's appointment without the client having to leave home. Remote access to a doctor is quick and the cost is cheaper. In addition, the threshold for contacting an expert is lower when you want to get things clear quickly or consider whether it is worth going to the doctor or not. Especially in matters related to mental health problems, a low threshold for contact is particularly important.

All of these are benefits that advocate investing in e-health solutions even without corona. The pandemic only accelerated this development and underlined the benefits offered by remote solutions. So there are always pros and cons to crises. They force us to think about our actions in a new light and thus provide a springboard for renewal.

However, remote technology alone is not enough. More important for the end result is how well they can be integrated as seamlessly as possible into the service process and other systems already in use. On the healthcare side, this means for example, that remote technology must be able to be integrated into the existing patient information system. This helps to avoid unnecessary duplication and thereby streamlines the work of professionals. The customer, in turn, is facilitated by the fact that digital services are easily accessible from one place like an application or a site with time reservation, video appointments, health surveys and chat.

Another important issue to consider is information security. Data protection issues play a particularly important role in the processing of personal health data. For example, in many publicly available video calling and communication services data protection may not be at the level required by confidential health matters.

Remote solutions have come to healthcare to stay

Remote solutions will be a key part of the healthcare business core in the future. Many service providers have already introduced various remote solutions and healthcare customers have learnt to expect remote services. Well implemented, they also have a positive impact on the customer experience and the work of the healthcare professional.

Personally, I believe in a hybrid model that is realized on customer terms, where remote solutions are one permanent, growing and evolving alternative way to face the customer alongside physical meetings in the future.

The author of the blog, Petteri Paakkunainen, is the Chairman of the Board of Movendos and responsible for developing the company's business.


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