Telemedicine is increasing in popularity to make health care more efficient and accessible. Most recently, CVS Health announced that it will launch telemedicine visits for patients with minor illnesses and injuries, skin conditions, and other wellness needs. Its MinuteClinic Video Visits will provide patients with access to health care services 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any mobile device. CVS Health is just one example of many large health care companies that are offering telemedicine to their patients.
The partnership between health care companies and telemedicine companies has created a marketplace of competition for physicians like never before. With the adoption of telemedicine, health care visits can take place anywhere at any time. Over time, more care will be provided outside of the four walls of the physician’s office. In this digital age, patients expect health care providers to keep up with the ever-shifting landscape of healthcare technology. Without the proper technology in place, there is a risk that your patients may decide to seek care elsewhere.
Patients are not the only customers who are interested in telemedicine. Payers, including private insurers and government programs, such as Medicare, are also in support of this new technology to reduce the overall cost of care. Many payers already offer reimbursement for telemedicine visits under certain circumstances. If you are curious about telemedicine and how it might work in your practice, you’ve come to the right place.
How does telemedicine work?
The basic principal behind telemedicine is using some form of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care without having physical contact with the patient. This may be accomplished through video conferencing tools, much like Skype or FaceTime, or having a telephone conversation and simultaneously reviewing images from the patient. Telemedicine can facilitate access to primary care and specialty care for patients living in rural areas or patients who live a significant distance away from the physician’s office. It can also help to reduce hospital readmission rates by allowing for remote monitoring of patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital. Through telemedicine, high quality health care is available to all patients, no matter where they reside.
How prevalent is telemedicine?
According to a study by HIMSS Analytics, telemedicine use among health care providers has risen to an adoption rate of 71 percent in 2017, as compared with only 54 percent in 2014. And more expansion of this technology is planned. Another study by the Healthcare Intelligence Network found that 74 percent of organizations were planning a telemedicine initiative within the next 12 months. Patients are also becoming more comfortable with telemedicine visits. A Cisco study found that nearly 75 percent of patients said they would be comfortable communicating with doctors remotely. With technology finally catching up to consumer expectations, physician offices can use telemedicine to improve health outcomes, increase access to care, and enhance the patient experience.
What types of patients benefit from telemedicine?
Telemedicine can benefit many different types of patients. It allows the doctor to have both verbal and visual contact with a patient, which is the key to making an accurate diagnosis and determining what type of care the patient may need. Here are a few examples of situations where patients might benefit from telemedicine:
- Chronically ill patients may be the best starting point for physicians through virtual care management and more frequent check-ins on their disease state.
- Parents of pediatric patients may find that a telemedicine visit is easier than bringing their sick child into the office. And it may also prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
- Patients with mobility issues and patients who are homebound may also benefit from telemedicine visits.
- Young professionals who are constantly on the go, or those who travel frequently for work may be more likely to use telemedicine visits if they are away from home.
In geographic areas where there is a shortage of certain physician specialties, telemedicine provides access to care for patients whose needs might otherwise go unmet. Specialists in areas such as neurology, dermatology, genetics, infectious disease and pain management have all been early adopters of this technology.
How can you get started with telemedicine?
One of our partners, eClinicalWorks, has developed a tool called TeleVisits that integrates directly into their mobile application, Healow. They also offer the option for patients to connect from a computer through their patient portal. The eClinicalWorks platform allows for a secure two-way video visit between the provider and the patient. This application is best for routine consultations and follow-up visits. This affordable solution also creates an opportunity to fill appointment times left empty due to inclement weather or cancellations. Many other Electronic Health Record (EHR) providers provide similar platforms that are compatible with existing systems. There are also many third-party telemedicine companies that offer integration into specific EHRs.