Telemedicine is here to stay. Consumers want it. Patients want it and so do their caregivers. Hospitals are using it to grow their market share, reduce costs and improve revenue. Millennials are digital natives and expect telemedicine to be part of their world. When it comes to telemedicine, it’s not a matter of “If” it’s going to be adopted by your healthcare system, but “When”.
What don’t we do with our phones? They are our lifeline, atlas, entertainment, camera, shopping center and notebook. Why are they not also our gateway to healthcare through telemedicine? Whether it is used to provide increased access to patients in rural communities or complement in-office visits for cardiology patients, the increased face-to-face communication with physicians is improving healthcare delivery in nearly every setting. Telemedicine has the power to move the healthcare system from “Fix me” to “Keep me well”. That is what is going to reduce costs for all of us and improve outcomes.
Patients think telemedicine is a good idea.
A HealthMine survey of 500 insured consumers showed the top reasons that consumers consider telemedicine:
- Follow-up for acute illness: 44%
- Symptom tracking or diagnosis: 44%
- Medication management: 44%
Telemedicine can reduce the cost of patient care.
A study reported in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare compared the cost of travel versus telemedicine for rural, Native American populations in New Mexico and found the following:
- The average per-patient cost of providing behavioral healthcare via telehealth was $138.34.
- The average per-patient travel cost was $333.52 for patients.
- The average travel cost for physicians was $169.76.
Reimbursement for telemedicine is growing.
- Parity: 31 states and Washington D.C. have passed parity legislation to guarantee payment for telehealth services by third-party payers.
- Employers: The majority of large employers – 59 percent – offered telemedicine in 2016, compared to only 30 percent in 2015. That might be because the typical charge for a telemedicine visit is $40, while the typical charge for an office visit is $125.
- Moving into 2017, nine in 10 employers said they plan to make telehealth services available to employees in states where it is allowed.
- Medicaid: Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C. all have some form* of reimbursement for telehealth and live video consultations in their Medicaid policies. Only Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Utah that did not have a written reimbursement policy as of 2016.
Telemedicine can benefit the entire care team especially caregivers.
There is one important application of telemedicine that benefits clinicians and patients across all specialties. It facilitates the support of and collaboration with caregivers who are key members of the care team. The AARP estimates that there are 34.2 million Americans caregivers who have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the recent year. You see them every day in your office; the friends and family members of your patients who tirelessly care for them and extend their care beyond office visits and treatments. They are the caregivers who transport, support and care for patients. They make sure the patient complies with your treatment plans, taking their medications properly, eating, sleeping and moving to improve their health. For critically ill patients, caregivers help to ease pain and monitor health conditions. They are an indispensable resource for patients navigating long, complex treatment regimens.
Caregivers are also an invaluable resource for clinicians.
- When physicians and other members of the medical team can rely on an informed caregiver, they find a partner in the delivery of care.
- When patients are accompanied to treatment sessions and doctor’s visits, their anxiety and fear are reduced and compliance increases.
However, for all of their dedication and daily care, caregivers are the only members of the care team that are not part of the patient-clinician communication loop. They do not have ready access to the information that their daily caregiving role requires. The more tightly the caregiver is woven into the physician/patient information loop, the more informed and better equipped they are to care for the patient.
Providing support to caregivers can help to avoid caregiver burnout, (which is a reported rate of 42%) depression and apathy. They are an essential part of the continuum of care, and a link that physicians, nurses and social workers rely on increasingly.
We believe in the power of telemedicine to improve healthcare today.
We also believe in the expert support that a comprehensive platform like Myowndoctor.com can play in achieving that communication integration. We’re going to talk about it over the coming days, and how it helps caregivers, patients and long-distance family members support and participate in the patient’s care. We are also going to talk about news from the telemedicine industry and findings from hospitals and physicians that are implementing it.
While your patients are focused on getting through the rigors of their treatment, their caregivers are focused on managing myriad details of daily life ranging from helping the patient walk to filling prescriptions. Telemedicine makes you a valuable partner in making caregiver’s lives easier, without any additional work. That increases loyalty to the practice and the hospital and increases your reputation for quality care.
Let’s talk about telemedicine and why you should implement it soon.