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Health care in a post-pandemic world: Telehealth is here to stay, but so are in-person visits

What's the future of telehealth as we emerge out of the pandemic? This guest contributor weighs in. Photo via Getty Images

As medical practitioners were faced with the abrupt arrival of the pandemic, they had to immediately adapt to new technologies and switch to telehealth – fundamentally changing the way healthcare is delivered. During the first few months of the pandemic, many private practices were forced to close their doors. Some have since opened with limited schedules, but many are still feeling the effects linger.

Telehealth has grown in popularity due to the efficiency and convenience it offers to both patients and providers. A recent CDC report noted that 30 percent of weekly health care visits occurred via telehealth from June to November 2020. According to the Health Center Program Data, 43 percent of health centers were capable of providing telehealth in 2019, compared to 95 percent of health centers using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As patients and healthcare institutions navigate this remote landscape, many challenges need to be addressed. Particularly, the rules and regulations that govern telehealth and how to ensure telehealth platforms can be used safely to offer care. Beyond policies and laws, there are several infrastructure hurdles affecting the implementation of telehealth services in rural areas, making this population vulnerable to inadequate access to care. The same CDC report noted that rural areas reported the lowest average of weekly health care visits via telehealth.

Practitioners also face new challenges evaluating and diagnosing patients without having the ability to do a hands-on physical exam and access to vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate and temperature during virtual visits. Telehealth visits are no match for direct, inpatient clinical visits, but practitioners are still trying to find its role in our current healthcare system.

Some of the ways we've integrated a technology-driven approach to healthcare at WellnessSpace is through putting together the best of both worlds. We focus on in-person visits that have the convenience of technology to enhance the experience of both members and their clients. We use client self-check-in kiosks, an interactive mobile app that allows our members to reserve suites on-demand, download invoices, manage their bios and message other members. We are focusing on providing an easy and integrated experience for both patients and practitioners, which is something that will play a key role in how practitioners and patients navigate the "new normal" as we move forward.

We can expect telehealth to continue to play a vital role in providing healthcare, but for the vast majority of practices, telehealth will supplement in-person visits, not replace them. In a release from the Department of Health and Human Services, surveyed practitioners expect telehealth to remain at 21 percent compared to 51 percent during the pandemic.

Overall, the pandemic has opened the doors for telehealth and increased its adoption among all age groups. It's provided an alternative for practitioners to still offer care, just in a different way. While it's not ideal for all situations, this technology is a tool that can help practitioners continue what they do best – helping patients.

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Sunny Somaiya is the co-owner of Houston-based WellnessSpace.

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Building Houston

 
 

Bumble is sponsoring 50 collegiate women athletes in honor of this week’s 50th Anniversary of Title IX. Photo by Kristen Kilpatrick

Bumble is causing a buzz once again, this time for collegiate women athletes. Founded by recent Texas Business Hall of Fame inductee Whitney Wolfe Herd, the Austin-based and female-first dating and social networking app this week announced a new sponsorship for 50 collegiate women athletes with NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Established in 1972, the federal law prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program or activity that receives federal money. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the number of women in collegiate athletics has increased significantly since Title IX, from 15 percent to 44 percent.

That said, equity continues to lag in many ways, specifically for BIPOC women who make up only 14 percent of college athletes. The findings also share that men have approximately 60,000 more collegiate sports opportunities than women, despite the fact that women make up a larger portion of the collegiate population.

With this in mind, Bumble’s new sponsorship seeks to support “a wealth of overlooked women athletes around the country,” according to the beehive’s official 50for50 program page.

“We're embarking on a yearlong sponsorship of 50 remarkable women, with equal pay amounts across all 50 NIL (name, image, and likeness) contracts,” says the website. “The inaugural class of athletes are a small representation of the talented women around the country who diligently — and often without recognition — put in the work on a daily basis.”

To celebrate the launch of the program, Bumble partnered with motion graphic artist Marlene “Motion Mami” Marmolejos to create a custom video and digital trading cards that each athlete will post on their personal social media announcing their sponsorship.

“These sponsorships are an exciting step in empowering and spotlighting a diverse range of some of the most remarkable collegiate women athletes from across the country. Athletes who work just as hard as their male counterparts, and should be seen and heard,” says Christina Hardy, Bumble’s director of talent and influencer, in a separate release. “In honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we are so proud to stand alongside these women and are looking forward to celebrating their many achievements throughout the year.”

“Partnering with Bumble and announcing this campaign on the anniversary of Title IX is very special,” said Alexis Ellis, a track and field athlete. “I am grateful for the progress that has been made for women in sports, and am proud to be part of Bumble’s ’50for50’ to help continue moving the needle and striving for more. I look forward to standing alongside so many incredible athletes for this campaign throughout the year.”

“I am so grateful to team up with Bumble and stand alongside these incredible athletes on this monumental anniversary,” said Haleigh Bryant a gymnast. “Many women continue to be overlooked in the world of sports, and I am excited to be part of something that celebrates, and shines a light on, the hard work, tenacity, and accomplishments of so many great athletes.”

Last year, the NCAA announced an interim policy that all current and incoming student athletes could profit off their name, image, and likeness, according to the law of the state where the school is located, for the first time in collegiate history.

The 50for50 initiative adds to Bumble’s previous multi-year investments in sports. In 2019, Bumble also launched a multi-year partnership with global esports organization Gen.G to create Team Bumble, the all-women professional esports team.

To see the 50for50 athletes, visit the official landing page.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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