How did the pandemic create behavior change and what changes are likely to persist? At the individual level, are we eating outdoors more? Shaking hands less? Shopping online more? Paying with cash less? Telecommuting more? Using mass transit less? At a systemic level, how has the pandemic created behavior change in the delivery of health care? In a recent survey of over 9,000 Virginia health care providers, 94% of medical providers and 97% of behavioral/mental health providers said they expanded the use of telehealth offerings in their practice as a result of the pandemic. 85% of medical providers and 91% of behavioral/mental health providers reported that they planned to maintain or expand their current level of telehealth services. Placing these data in context, prior to the onset of the pandemic in the United States, telehealth made up less than 1% of all health care visits.
As providers pivoted to telehealth during the early weeks of the pandemic, they often approached it as a stopgap measure, a temporary way of dealing with a problem. As the weeks grew into months, and the months into years, providers started to realize that they needed to learn more. How do you develop policies, procedures and protocols for telehealth visits? How do you create efficient and effective workflows? What is appropriate and professional telehealth etiquette/web-side manner? How do you perform an effective physical exam? How do you facilitate a telehealth encounter with an interpreter? How do you address patients who have low digital literacy? As the Director of the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center, I spent countless hours over the last two years responding to this paradigm shift by providing training and technical assistance around all of these areas and more. Why was this necessary? Because the majority of providers never received this type of training prior to the pandemic.
How has the pandemic created behavior change in health professions education? This remains to be seen.
Kathy Hsu Wibberly, PhD
Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center