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Effectiveness of Video Communication for Telehealth

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | January 23, 2019 |
Michael Greiwe, MD

Just how effective is video technology in healthcare delivery? Traditional wisdom seems to dictate that the in-person clinical visit is the best option for high-quality care and caring. But an article in Harvard Business Review suggests that today’s healthcare realities are turning this widely accepted practice upside down.

Is video really an effective medium for the new clinical visit? What are the drawbacks of in-person versus a text or email from a doctor? How could the telehealth video virtual visit provide a more positive experience for the clinical provider and their patients?

New Rules of Healthcare Require the Video Visit

Last year the Harvard Business Review suggested that conventional practice models are being forced to change by three primary market factors:

These trends will force new models of care delivery, including virtual health, which includes the use of video technology in place of an in-person visit with your doctor. The article suggested that the use of these tools is a necessary part of fixing what is predicted to become the perfect storm of factors battering our nation’s healthcare system. In fact, a new report by Accenture predicts that using videoconferencing or other telehealth technologies could “generate an economic value of approximately $10 billion annually across the U.S. health system over the next few years.”

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Video, Audio, Text – and How We Learn

But is video an effective method for diagnosing and providing care? Many practices are already making use of video technology for marketing. One article suggested, “Video marketing gives the healthcare industry a chance to connect with patients and educate them on how to live a healthier life.”

From “Welcome to our Practice” videos to clinical education videos, these tools are being used to warm up what can feel like a frightening or cold clinical visit. We know video is effective from a plethora of research data on the effectiveness of the technology for teaching and learning. But how can doctors use video in a virtual house call and is it effective in the diagnosis of disease?

A recent Forbes article suggests that the use of video in healthcare is not only clinically effective; it is a paradigm-shifting innovation that can fix what’s broken:

But for certain industries, the promise of video conferencing goes beyond the support of fundamental relationships and workflows to inject transformational levels of innovation and efficiency to core products and services.

Doctors have been using their smartphones to communicate with patients about their care; ask any on-call provider and they’ll confirm the effectiveness of this medium. But what about using secure texting to communicate with a healthcare patient? One study ran a pilot to determine if videoconferencing and texting with cystic fibrosis patients would improve some of the “gaps in knowledge and misconceptions about medication usage, which can lead to poor adherence.” The study showed that both patient adherence to treatment plans and satisfaction scores improved.

The HIMSS recommendation is that:
The health care consumer can have their needs met more quickly and at a lower cost, by communicating via SMS. Additionally, text message reminders can help the consumer be more compliant, therefore decreasing the loss of revenue related to missed appointments, and the need for schedule changes for the provider

So, while generally accepted practice seems to be moving toward the use of video, text, and other telehealth tools, how, exactly, can a provider use video for patient care?

Using Video in a Medical House Call

“Providers see terrific value in video as well. More than three quarters of respondents believed that video empowered patients to ask questions about “small issues” before they blow up into major complications, built personal connections between care team members and patients ― and provided patients with care from any place, at any time.”

MobiHealth News

Today, video is being used effectively in healthcare via a variety of telehealth applications:

  • For diagnosis
    Using specially adapted medical tools and videoconferencing; clinicians can bring the exam directly to the patient. This is particularly important in rural areas where access to care continues to decline. From their digital device and with HIPAA-compliant software, doctors or mid-levels can see the patient, see images of their clinical symptoms, review tests, and more.
  • For care coordination
    Clinicians can coordinate care between multiple rings of healthcare providers by using videoconferencing to improve care continuity. It is in this way that rural hospitals and doctors can consult with a network of specialty providers, increasing knowledge, access to care, and health outcomes.
  • In remote monitoring
    Video can be used to track the chronically ill, educating, engaging, and monitoring their health. While remote monitoring is effective for post-surgical patients, it is also particularly effective to help the elderly or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
  • For occupational health
    There is strong evidence that providing immediate access to triage directly after an on-the-job industrial accident can improve health outcomes. Accessing a clinician on the nightshift in a warehouse after a workplace injury can cut down on the standard trips to the ER that often follow even less-than serious injuries because no other healthcare provider is available.

While these are a few examples, videoconferencing has a wide variety of application in healthcare settings. While the technology has stabilized and provided clinical data showing it’s efficacy, there are signs that videoconferencing in telehealth is changing to become as accepted of a practice as the in-person visit.

Data Shows Virtual Visits Soon to be the Norm

The latest data shows that 90% of doctors and healthcare organizations are either already using the telehealth videoconference or are developing these tools. Companies like OrthoLive offer an easy-to-use, HIPAA-compliant, secure videoconferencing tool that can help your healthcare organization cut costs and improve access to care for patients. Contact us to discuss the efficacy of video conferencing for your patient care delivery network.

Topics: "telehealth", "telemedicine", healthcare, digital trends, smartphone, house call, video conferencing

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