Do Orthopedic Patients Like Mobile Health Programs?

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | June 4, 2018 |
Michael Greiwe, MD

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It’s a bold statement to say that the future of orthopedics lies in mobile health.

But the data shows an irrevocable link between technology and the future state of medical practice in the United States. That’s not just because our culture is obsessed with the digital universe, it’s because your patients will soon be demanding the convenience of telemedicine and mobile health applications.

This article will look at a few case studies showing that the demand for mobile health is growing as patients realize the value of these services.

Accenture Study and Mobile Health

Accenture Consulting just recently completed their 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health. This global study of nearly 8,000 consumers sought to quantify the current environment for healthcare technology and the service innovations that mobile health will bring.

The first result they discovered was that 75% of the survey participants consider technology an important part of healthcare. The majority of the healthcare consumers have used some sort of digital technology to manage their health:

  • 56% have used a website.
  • 46% have used a mobile phone or tablet. This increased by 10% over 2016.
  • 33% have used wearable technologies. Another 14% have engaged in remote medical monitoring for chronic conditions.
  • 16% have used a remote consultation via either a mobile health or telemedicine application.
  • 90% are willing to share remote or trackable data with their physicians. 53% would be willing to wear health-tracking devices that use the cloud to transmit data.

These numbers show increasing consumer comfort with digital technology in the healthcare space. In fact, of the patients that had experienced a mobile health or telemedicine appointment, 74% rated the experience as positive.

This is an important distinction in healthcare when customer satisfaction scores are often notoriously low. According to the 2017 American Customer Satisfaction Index, healthcare ranks 32nd in customer satisfaction across all industry sectors. With CMS-incentives increasingly tied to CAHPS scores, clinical providers should be paying particular attention to any tool that could improve the customer experience.

Could mobile health provide an opportunity for healthcare providers to increase customer satisfaction scores and, potentially, reimbursement?

Consumers Want Mobile Health Convenience

Telehealth is a promising opportunity to increase member engagement because a greater number of individuals are open to the use of telehealth services. Telehealth and remote care provide an exceptional customer experience opportunity for payers. Consumers want telehealth as a convenient way to receive checkups, preventive care, and non-critical services without the need for travel and wait times.HealthPayer IntelligenceMay 16, 2018

The Advisory Board recently rolled out a case study of New York Presbyterian Hospital’s use of mobile health technology to reduce patient wait times in the ER. The hospital was able to use telehealth to reduce waiting room times from an average of 2.5 hours to just 30 minutes.

While virtual options are not necessarily the first choice for many patients, for non-acute services there seems to be a growing opportunity for hospitals and medical practices to offer mobile health as an alternative to the traditional in-person visit.

A study cited by mHealth Intelligence suggests that patients are willing, the technology is ready, but clinical providers and insurance payers have lagged behind the data that shows patients are ready for the convenience found in mobile health applications. Of the 400 consumers surveyed, 77% said they would be more likely to pick a doctor that offered telemedicine applications over one that hadn’t yet adopted the technology. The data showed the reasons behind the interest in mobile health virtual visits included:

  • Patients want the option of skipping a time-consuming trip to the doctor for a simple recheck or non-urgent visit.
  • Short wait times and the convenience of receiving a virtual house call are very attractive to patients.

When combined with the data showing that telehealth reduces costs in the medical practice, it seems clear that there are new options in the healthcare field that may improve the bottom line.

Keeping the Customer Satisfied -- Mobile Health in the Orthopedic Practice

“This direct link between patient satisfaction and revenue will likely become stronger because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of linking 90% of Medicare payments to quality or value by 2018.”Beckers Hospital CFO Report

While many orthopedic providers continue to express their concern that patients will not be willing to evolve from traditional visits, the most recent research does not hold up this assumption. A 2017 Advisory Board study of patient attitudes toward the virtual visits shows that 77% would be willing to at least try the model.

The Accenture study highlighted what patients say are the primary benefits of telehealth:

  • Faster diagnosis and treatment.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Providing and receiving high-quality care.
  • More flexibility in scheduling.
  • A time savings for physicians and doctors.

A 2018 article in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the current model of traditional in-patient visits will eventually be flipped to the visit of last-resort over mobile health or telehealth options. The authors suggest:

Face-to-face interactions will certainly always have a central role in health care, and many patients prefer to see their physician in person. But a system focused on high-quality nonvisit care would work better for many others — and quite possibly for physicians as well.

Some of the systems leading the way are Kaiser Permanente, with 52% of their 100 million + patient encounters each year conducted as virtual visits. But a large health system has the budget to establish telehealth applications while retraining clinical providers and their patients on best practices for using the service. How can a small medical practice find the time and energy to reinvent itself under a mobile health framework?

The answer may lie in the individual practice seeking innovative ways to obtain a competitive advantage. An article by a solo-orthopedist in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons AAOS Now recounted his experience in using telehealth applications to treat post-operative patients. His decision to use the technology was tied to improved patient experience, lower overheads, and higher quality of care.

Is it time for your practice to discuss the opportunities to offer mobile health as an option for your patients? OrthoLive has developed a cloud-based affordable telehealth model designed specifically for the orthopedic practitioner. Contact us to find out more.

Topics: mobile health, "telehealth"