The biggest buzzwords in the healthcare industry are telemedicine and telehealth. Consistent advancements in technology have put these terms even more in the forefront, not only in the minds of healthcare professionals, but in patients and daily consumers. Everyone is taking notice.
A recent Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey found that 77% of consumers are interested in using virtual healthcare, while 19% have already used the service. Cost savings, convenience, and considerable health benefits for the end user have dramatically driven this massive increase in consumer interest and usage.
The Wall Street Journal has noted significant savings for telehealth meetings for patients with “non emergency issues … cost around $45, compared with approximately $100 at a doctor’s office, $160 at an urgent-care clinic or $750 and up at an emergency room.”
Everyone is taking notice of these cost savings to the extent that, even the government is starting to incentivize telehealth adoption. New bills and policies for reimbursement are being introduced, including new laws in 2019 and 2020. Telehealth is quickly becoming more accessible and affordable.
In 2020, Medicare Advantage plans, under Part B, will begin accepting telehealth as a base benefit of services. This interstate medical licensure compact (IMLC), has been accepted by 22 states, hoping to “increase access to healthcare for patients in underserved or rural areas allowing them to more easily connect with medical experts through the use of telemedicine technologies.” Telemedicine and telehealth are being recognized by users and government officials as the way towards a healthcare system that is both affordable and accessible to all.
Incredible technological advancements have been made in both telehealth and telemedicine over the past ten years. Patients living in more rural areas, as well as those with mobility issues, have typically experienced incredible difficulties meeting consistent appointments. Scheduled virtual visits allow these highly at-risk patients to have their health symptoms, vital signs, and treatment plans monitored from the convenience of their own homes at drastically lower costs. Telehealth also has the ability to bring physicians, clinical, and hospital staff together in a collaborative way to more easily and conveniently improve care for their patients.
With chronic disease on the rise (heart disease, cancer, and diabetes affect the lives of over 117 million people), those afflicted with these conditions make up about 81% of hospital patients, 91% of prescriptions filled, and 76% of general practitioner visits. Remote patient monitoring applications, and devices like medical grade wearable technology, make it easier to take vital readings, track symptoms, prioritize at-risk patients, and save lives.
But these benefits extend further than just at-home monitoring. Emergency rooms and intensive care units are utilizing telemedicine capabilities, as well. Their ability to reduce waiting times and increase patient reach, while easing consistent financial pains of clinics and hospitals, are having dramatic effects on patient health and services. Telehealth capabilities are being used in a program called Express Care at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine. This program has reported a dramatic decrease in wait and treatment times, dropping from 2 to 2.5 hours down to just 35 to 40 minutes.
The Time is Now
With these trends and technology moving towards telehealth and telemedicine offerings, the healthcare providers that are making the switch to population management software are the ones experiencing these benefits. The longer a healthcare provider stays with existing (and quickly becoming antiquated) models, the more of a competitive disadvantage they are finding with patients, and inefficient and less economical applications. There are excellent resources available to help determine the best telehealth programs to implement.
The m.Care platform has already been incorporated efficiently and effectively into many varied health programs. For example, the results at Mercy Virtual are very promising. Of patients who have used the m.Care technology, 96% indicate they are satisfied with not just the technology, but with their comfort in using it. Readmission rates have decreased by over 50% and overall costs have been reduced by more than 32%.