Physicians today seem to have less and less time. There are still 24 hours in the day, but with more patients visits and administration requirements, we really need 30 hours to get it all done. It’s easy to feel overbooked and overburdened.
I became an orthopedic surgeon to help people. It still feels good when someone smiles and says “Thank you so much. I feel like I have my life back.” How do we get more of those moments? How do we feel like we have more of our OWN life back? Using telehealth in my own practice has helped me do just that.
Telemedicine has come a long way over the years. No longer are we restricted to a dedicated telemed suite. Better, less expensive technologies make those a relic of the past. Virtual presence can be brought into your regular consult areas or your office. It can be wherever you NEED it to be.
Telehealth is more than just a video chat with a patient. Comprehensive platforms like Ortholive aid in launching a telemedicine service as well as bolstering established programs. Telemedicine has been shown to improve efficiency and decrease workflow friction. Here are the 5 biggest ways I’ve become more efficient in my orthopedic practice because of telemedicine
1. Patients wait where they want to
Patients are consumers and today’s consumers are not patient. With the explosion of services offered with mobile technology, it’s easy to see why. They have services where they can pay for a ride from their phone, renew their driver’s license without stepping foot in the DMV, and get their groceries delivered to their door.
Waiting in an office and then waiting in an exam room grates against how they schedule their time. It’s natural they would want to experience this same convenience in medicine. We’ve seen it in the rise of retail clinics, which have grown from 200 clinics in 2008 to over 2000 clinics today. They are projected to grow even more. Some estimate around 3000 retail clinics will be serving patients by the end of 2018. They feel great about their care too with satisfaction rated at over 90%.
People don’t want to take 2 hours out of their day for a 10 minute post-op appointment for their joint replacement. Telehealth can help you deliver that.
This isn’t just a trend for younger people. Older healthcare consumers are showing they are willing to utilize telehealth platforms. Studies have shown older patients are just as willing as younger ones to engage in mobile healthcare behaviors.(AM J Surg, 2017)
2. Fewer no shows and better compliance
Patients showing up late or not showing up at all can be really costly. (Parviz et al, 2016) A recent study across 10 clinics showed an average no-show rate of 18.8%, with the sub-specialists showing an even higher rate. The monetary impact for the clinics as a whole was almost $200 per missing patient, but at a higher cost per billable hour, your no-show rate is probably costing you even more than that.
Besides the financial loss, it can create friction with the care relationship. If appointments are easier to make and easier to keep, it improves overall patient satisfaction. These patients tend to be more engaged in their care and experience greater compliance with medications and therapies. Patients with better compliance show cost savings and better outcomes.
3. You spend more time doing what compensates you
Surgeons spend a lot of time making phone calls for follow up and outreach. Phone calls are good for some things, but are limited in the value they bring to the patient. Telehealth has shown better outcomes than the phone call, and in some cases, as good as an in person visit. Additionally with a structured telehealth visit, you can be compensated for your time as opposed to phone calls which most insurances won’t pay for. With time used more efficiently in telehealth consults, you have more time available to spend in the place that RVUs reimburses you best—the OR.
4. See more patients
Telehealth can help draw in new patients in a few ways. Patients who might not have chosen to utilize your practice due to barriers (travel from out of town, lack of transport for follow-up appointments, etc) can feel comfortable knowing that they will only be required to come in for a face-to-face when it’s really important.
Telehealth lets the patient feel that their needs are a priority. When given a choice of where to go, they will pick the one who most readily accommodates their needs. Don’t forget one of the best ways we get new patients is through personal recommendation. Patients who feel they get great care and get it in a way that fits their schedule, share their story with their friends, family, and their online community. You can leverage Telehealth to make sure your patients’ online influence speaks well of you.
5. Less time in the office means you get to have a life
Physician burnout is an all too real problem.(Arch Intern Med 2012) The healthcare industry is already short of doctors, so we can’t afford to lose the ones we have due to an overburdened schedule. A structured Ehealth program like Ortholive can consolidate your time in the office and let you work at home, traveling, wherever your device can follow you. A good balance has shown to not only let people stay in the workforce longer, but perform better. Good self-care ultimately leads to better patient care.(JAMA 2011)
Let’s be clear: The internet and mobile technology is disruptive. Nobody would’ve guessed back in the 90’s that an online bookstore like Amazon would be using your cell phone to track your grocery purchases at their own store down the street. New technology doesn’t care how things have always been done, it only asks “how else can it be done?”
Mobile technology has already started changing medicine, the only question is how quickly are you going to embrace it.
These certainly aren’t the only reasons to consider using telehealth in your practice. But hopefully I’ve given you enough reasons to imagine how your practice—and your life—could be changed. You also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are some innovative platforms that already exist and can walk you through the process as you try to grow your practice without growing your headaches.