Telehealth continues to make waves across the American healthcare system. In this article, we’ll cover three of the latest news-worthy events in the field, including:
- Last month a startling new Accenture study suggested the healthcare market is strongly shifting toward consumerist attitudes that embrace greater convenience, affordability, and care quality. Younger healthcare consumers are clearly not satisfied with business as usual, preferring retail walk-in clinics, urgent cares, outpatient surgical hospitals, and virtual health to more traditional models.
- In February an issue brief from the Altarum Institute also highlighted a side issue correlated to telehealth; patient access to care. It was a grim portrait of billions lost in the last decade to decreased productivity caused by travel and long wait times in our nation’s hospitals, health systems, and medical practice facilities.
- Finally, new funding was announced to tackle some of the issues highlighted in the Altarum Institute findings. The grant will use telehealth to connect rural primary care providers practicing in Appalachia with pulmonary specialists in remote tertiary care facilities. It’s good news for residents struggling with chronic diseases like black lung in these rural communities.
Differences in Generations – Younger Patients Prefer Retail and Virtual Care
“With millennials projected to become the largest generation by 2019, this generation holds the most power to influence future healthcare models.
In another sign that the traditional healthcare workflow is changing, last month a new survey highlighted generational differences and patient preferences toward digital tools like virtual health.
In February, Accenture released their 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey of 2,000 patients. It illustrated that younger populations are gravitating heavily toward newer healthcare models, including retail clinics, telehealth, and other patient engagement tools, including web-based portals and health monitoring apps.
The study defined the patient populations as:
- Baby Boomers, aged 55 to 73 in 2019.
- Millennials, aged 22 to 54 in 2019.
- Gen Z, aged 18 to 21 in 2019.
The study surveyed patient satisfaction correlated to wait times, care delivery channel, care effectiveness, and medication subscribed. Not surprisingly, Baby Boomers seemed most satisfied with traditional models of care while the younger generations were less satisfied in all categories. Of all the patients surveyed, Generation Z was the least satisfied with the traditional clinical visit.
Over one-half of all the survey respondents expect digital capabilities from their healthcare providers and they say that increasingly, these offerings are a competitive advantage. The study showed:
- 70% of respondents in 2019 said they are more likely to choose a doctor that offers email or text visit reminders, compared to 57% from the prior year.
- 53% are more likely to use a provider offering remote monitoring healthcare options, compared to 39% from 2016.
- Younger healthcare consumers also expressed their preference for electronic prescription refills and mobile access to test results.
The study’s findings illustrated the growing power of younger generations and their impact on technology usage in healthcare. The study noted that these populations are more likely to select a provider based on the convenience of their service, basing their provider selection on “a strong digital footprint.” Accenture concluded their report with, “Providers and payers who stay one step ahead of the shifts and deliver what patients are looking for will be the ones to earn loyalty, navigate disruption and be strongly positioned as the future unfolds.”
$89 Billion Lost in the Last Decade to Healthcare Travel and Wait Times
Also last month Altarum released a study showing that healthcare has the longest consumer travel and wait times of all other service categories in the nation.
Their research shows that $89 billion is lost annually as patients face an average of 34-minutes of travel per healthcare visits, 11-minutes of wait time, and 76 minutes receiving care. The study stated:
Time spent on travel and waiting for care is an under appreciated burden of the US health care system. It results in a significant cost on patients, as individuals must forgo either leisure, work, or home activities in order to see a professional. When quantified by applying an individual’s hourly wage as an approximate measure of the economic cost of time spent, travel and waiting costs averaged $89 billion dollars annually from 2006 thru 2017.
Despite billions spent by healthcare providers during this same time period on digitized healthcare records, technology automation, and increasing insurance coverage, the study concluded that the burdens of travel and wait times over the past decade have shown “no discernable improvements.”
New Grant Funds Telehealth Initiative in Appalachia
Finally, February 2019 also brought a new funding initiative that seeks to bring a specialty consult to rural primary care providers in Appalachian communities. The goal is to improve access to specialty care providers in tertiary facilities by funding training and equipment for telehealth.
The National Science Foundation offered the grant, which links primary care providers in rural areas with pulmonary care doctors at the University of Virginia Health System. These consults will be conducted via telehealth. The issue is one of access to care; with patients in these rural communities experiencing a higher incidence of lung disease, but with no access to specialty care, telehealth is a logical way to improve outcomes.
Access to care is often thwarted by geographic obstacles including weather or lack of transportation in these communities. Patient Engagement HIT reports that access to subspecialty providers, such as clinicians that treat pulmonary diseases, is 28% lower than the national average. The article suggested, “Telehealth has presented one opportunity to close gaps. Direct-to-consumer telehealth allows patients to connect with providers using video conference to make a diagnosis.”
It is anticipated that services offered could extend beyond diagnosis and treatment of specific pulmonary disorders to patient education in the areas of smoking cessation. Key to the telehealth initiative is providing the bandwidth to use the technology in addition to training doctors and their patients on how to use the tools.
OrthoLive Offers Telehealth
OrthoLive offers orthopedists a new way of providing treatment that is more convenient, less costly, and has higher outcomes than traditional office visits. Talk with our team about how our application can improve patient access and your bottom line.
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