The Rise of Telemedicine during COVID-19 & What the Nursing Student Should Know

Amanda Ghosh

Amanda Ghosh

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The Rise of Telemedicine during COVID-19 & What the Nursing Student Should Know

Telemedicine is on the rise due to COVID-19, and it’s solidifying its place in our healthcare system. Nursing students interested in telehealth as a career will have a real shot at pursuing this field full-time after gaining a few years of experience in direct patient care and beefing up their knowledge of telemedicine. 

The Rise of Telehealth during COVID-19

COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of telemedicine. Until there’s an effective treatment for COVID-19 nurses should expect to continue seeing at least some patients remotely—either synchronously (i.e., telephone, video) or asynchronously (e.g., patient portal messaging, e-consults, virtual chatbots, wearable devices, etc.)

In March of this year, telemedicine’s Medicare requirements were lifted to allow more providers to accept Medicare payments for virtual visits. 

Telehealth visits also spiked in March by 50%, and at least one telemedicine provider, Teladoc, reported over 15,000 video requests per day. 

Forecasters also predict the telehealth market to surpass 1 billion in revenue by the end of the year. 

The surge in telemedicine this year is noticeable– before COVID-19, patients, and practitioners resisted telemedicine. According to Forrester analyst, Arielle Trzcinski, concerns over cost, availability, and relationships have either prevented or slowed telemedicine adoption in the past. 

But, will the surge in telemedicine continue after COVID-19? And, what does a boom in telemedicine mean for new nurses?

What Does the Future Hold for Telehealth?

If telehealth’s demand remains after the threat of COVID-19 diminishes, remote jobs in telehealth are a real possibility for nurses who want an alternative to bedside nursing. 

According to Matthew Hawkins, the CEO of Waystar, a tech company specializing in simplifying and unifying the healthcare revenue cycle, telehealth’s demand will remain after COVID-19. 

His prediction, which echoes other expert predictions, is based on healthcare trends before COVID-19. 

Healthcare was already taking a consumerist approach before the current pandemic struck. For example, tech giants like Apple and Google, have been positioning themselves as experts on consumer healthcare preferences for years. Like global healthcare disasters, other occurrences will only propel us toward a consumerist healthcare system faster–and of course, a consumerist healthcare system includes telemedicine. 

Nursing Telehealth Career Options

Nurses who prefer remote interactions with patients are going to have more opportunities to practice virtual healthcare. 

Those interested in telehealth careers should focus on searching for jobs as triage nurses or advice nurses. Nursing jobs in outpatient medical offices may also offer remote healthcare opportunities—many primary care physicians are screening patients remotely before asking them to come to their office.

Job Duties of a Telehealth Nurse

A nurse who works exclusively as a telehealth nurse can expect to perform the following duties throughout their day:

  • Electronic prescription renewal
  • Providing advice using clinical algorithms
  • Fielding after-hours calls
  • Responding to physician emails
  • Performing patient follow-ups
  • Directing patients to the right level of care

Perhaps most importantly, the telehealth nurse is responsible for recognizing life-threatening emergent conditions and symptoms requiring urgent care.

Nurses working in telehealth also need to be comfortable with technology. Most will use various means to communicate with patients and practitioners, including computers, cell phones, apps, patient portals, video conferencing platforms, and more.

How to Become a Telehealth Nurse

Unfortunately, telehealth nursing is still one of those “specialty” jobs where you’re generally required to have a few years of direct patient care experience. 

Nurses who want to practice virtual healthcare need to have the experience of recognizing and dealing with a variety of life-threatening situations in person as well as a sound grasp of symptoms and conditions requiring urgent medical attention. 

Nurses who eventually want to specialize in telemedicine will try to find work in med-surge because that’s still one of the best ways to accumulate the kind of direct patient care employers are looking for in a telehealth nurse. 

Besides being a registered nurse, there is no special certification required for telehealth nursing at this time. However, that may change as telemedicine becomes a more prominent fixture in the healthcare system. 

Benefits of Telehealth Nursing 

Full-time telehealth nurses have a great gig—if you enjoy working from home. Most can work out of their house, and some report feeling less burned out. 

Telehealth nursing arguably gives you more control over your work-life-family balance by allowing you to work from home. 

But, job seekers beware—telehealth nursing means losing the bedside connection with patients and the camaraderie or socialization that comes with seeing one’s coworkers every day. 

Start Your Career in Telehealth

If you’re interested in switching to telehealth, now is a great time to contact recruiters. Recruiters are busy filling telehealth roles to address an increase in demand for video appointments amid COVID-19. It would help if you also considered your current employer as a potential source of virtual work. And, don’t forget there are opportunities to pull ahead of your competition by taking a telemedicine course for nurses.

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