Virtual healthcare is coming to your practice. Why are we so certain? There is growing consumer demand, reported in multiple studies that show an increasing patient demographic that is not only comfortable with their digital devices – they want to use them to communicate with their doctors. But questions still remain with both patients and physicians who are intrigued by these tools.
We’ve pulled together the answers to eight common questions from physicians and their patients on how telehealth works, how it’s paid, and what it’s like to have a virtual house call.
Patients -- 4 Common Questions and Answers About Telehealth
1. What is telemedicine? Is it the same as telehealth?
Answer: Telehealth is a broad technology category that encompasses using digital tools like a smartphone or laptop to see a doctor. Within this framework are a number of subsets with names like telemedicine, e-health, or m-health. These names have been used interchangeably in the media for communication technology that uses software, hardware, and the Internet to transmit healthcare information or have an online visit with a clinician.
Click here to learn about the different types of telemedicine tools.
2. How hard is it to see my doctor with telehealth?
Answer: If a patient can navigate a search engine or use a phone app, telehealth is a tool they can use. To have a videoconference with a physician or nurse, the patient needs a good Internet connection and a computer or phone with a built-in microphone and camera. If the device doesn’t have these tools, they will need to be purchased. Telemedicine software is very easy to navigate for patients of all ages.
Click here to see a video of the OrthoLive app.
3. Can I only use telehealth for a certain kind of sickness?
Answer: Actually, no. Telemedicine is used today to treat everything from the common cold to post-surgical wound care. Everything from migraines to acne to mental health counseling can be treated while using this technology. It’s common today for doctors to use these tools to coordinate patient care, to use them in their clinics, or in the emergency room during a crisis. Patients should ask their care provider what services they offer within the virtual visit setting as well as their employer and insurance carrier – both are increasing their use of these tools to improve efficiencies and cuts costs.
Click here to find out which types of doctors use telehealth.
4. How can the doctor really know what’s wrong if I don’t see him or her in person?
Answer: The doctor can “see” a patient via a video screen, but in fact, it’s the patient history that provides about 90% of the clinical diagnosis. A virtual consultation can prevent unnecessary trips to a doctor’s office or an ER or urgent care. Think of these visits like a “virtual house call;” the doctor or nurse sees and diagnoses over a phone or computer screen. Click here for an article on the virtual house call.
Providers -- 4 Common Questions and Answers About Telehealth
1. How common is telemedicine, really?
Answer: The use of telehealth tools is growing increasingly common in the U.S. Last year there were seven million patient encounters using these tools. By 2025, the global market for these devices will hit the $130 billion mark. The AHA says 76% of U.S. hospitals use telemedicine to serve patients.
Click here to find out more.
2. Does telehealth really pay?
Answer: More than half of the states now have parity legislation that requires private insurers to reimburse for telemedicine encounters at the same rate they pay for in-person visits. CMS has also loosened restrictions on originating sites while increasing the codes used for telehealth reimbursement. In 2018, there were eight new codes added to the Physician Fee Schedule and every major insurance carrier now offers reimbursement for telehealth. All signs point to increasing reimbursement and decreasing regulations that restrict doctors from offering care via this technology. There is a corresponding drop in overhead costs as well as the time of encounter can reduce with telemedicine. The typical cost savings ranges around $125 saved per clinical encounter. Click here to find out more about telehealth reimbursement.
3. My patients are not interested in this service.
Answer: Patients are increasingly frustrated by long wait times. 97% of patients are annoyed with the long wait times associated with the traditional office visit. According to the latest studies, more than half of patients today are interested in a virtual visit over the traditional on-site appointment. Imagine the time spent traveling and waiting for an onsite office visit. Forward-thinking doctors are writing articles on how telemedicine can bring back the almost-forgotten intimacy of the personal house call by using these modern tools. Telehealth is being used effectively on the elderly with chronic care conditions and by Millennials for routine primary care. If your practice isn’t using or considering telehealth, you run the risk of falling behind consumer demand.
Click here to find out more about today’s patient care models.
4. Will telemedicine damage the relationship I have with my patient?
Answer: If you use telehealth properly, it can actually enhance the relationship with patients. We know this to be true from the high patient satisfaction scores that telemedicine visits generally receive. Telehealth benefits the patient by increasing their access to a trusted care provider without requiring a trip to the doctor. In addition to saving transportation costs, telehealth allows our patients to save money on these visits, which certainly cost less than a trip to the ER! We all know that patients are more likely to skip a visit to your practice if they don’t have the time or money that it takes to miss work or find childcare; telemedicine is a patient-centric approach that focuses more on the convenience of the visit for the patient.
Click here to read more about how telemedicine can enhance the doctor-patient relationship.