Improving Efficiencies in the Orthopedic Practice with E-Health

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | September 14, 2018 |
Michael Greiwe, MD

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A few years ago, Becker’s reported on a Truven Health Analytics survey showing that 71% of emergency room visits in the U.S. were avoidable or even unnecessary.

This is a troubling statistic that hospitals are being held accountable for under the CMS Readmissions Reduction Program. As a result, many are implementing new e-health applications to reduce these costly penalties, while providing patients more options for receiving care without traveling to the ER.

This article looks at the push toward “value” in healthcare, and how hospitals, employers, and medical practices can benefit from e-health.

Finding “Value” in E-Health Applications

“In the area of health IT, the shift to value-based care is fueling new uses for data and has the potential to reinvigorate the electronic health records that many feared had gone stale.”
Healthcare IT News

With healthcare providers still uncertain about the federal effort to write “value” into reimbursement models, organizations are proactively developing and implementing strategies to reduce costs, improve quality, and ultimately replace fee-for-service.

One strategy has been to offer telemonitoring and e-health applications for patients in order to provide an enhanced customer service experience while reducing the strain on ER departments. Some of the most recent applications we’ve seen include the expansion of e-health by one of the largest hospital systems in the country.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) a $9 billion integrated global health system, just announced their expansion of telemedicine programs across their medical practice and hospital network.

Healthcare IT News recently reported that the system just expanded e-health applications, including remote monitoring for some of the systems sickest patients. In the past, UPMC implemented e-health with strong anecdotal evidence that these applications reduced emergency room visits. They’ve also documented evidence that Medicare patients who use e-health are 76% less likely to experience readmission. With patient satisfaction scores increasing, UPMC made the decision to expand these programs earlier this year.

While this is just one example, the real issue driving value-based reimbursement is, of course, the spiraling costs of healthcare that are increasing for treatments, prescription drugs, and physician care, according to CNBC. As a way to combat these costs, 71% of hospitals are now offering some sort of e-health application to patients.

The CNBC article suggests that adding e-health to the physician provider’s core offering of services reduces costs by “around $200 per visit.”

But it’s not just health systems driving e-health adoption. Increasingly, employers are jumping on the telemedicine bandwagon. There seems to be a national push for e-health as part of a healthcare insurance service offering for employees. Given that employers are desperate to cut healthcare costs, e-health applications are expected to cut into the 6% increase in benefit costs that most are facing this year.

One of the most frequent barriers to e-health has been that the American public has lagged behind in adopting the technology. Becker’s reported that just two years ago, 47.7% of patients didn’t even recognize the term “telemedicine.” Yet the latest polls show 78.5% of Americans would now be comfortable having a remote visit with a physician.

Healthcare IT News suggests that the logical outcome of this interest is that it will finally begin to improve public adoption of e-health applications:

As a result, more employees will have access to broader healthcare services
including telemedicine, centers of excellence and onsite health centers
during open enrollment while not experiencing
major increases in their costs.

Now let’s look at some examples of how e-health applications can help a specific medicine subset. How can e-health help orthopedic practices improve the quality of care, and increase “value,” while reducing costs?

How Does E-Health Help Orthopedic Practices?

“As the healthcare sector continues to shift into value-based care and consumers become more involved in the care process, telemedicine and big data will continue to hold a crucial role in advancing patient care.”
Healthcare IT News

Whether a patient’s illness is physical or behavioral, e-health applications can help alleviate their discomfort and improve their clinical experience. Providing care for a surgical recheck or adjusting medication can all be done virtually, which lessens the cost, improves access, and decreases wait time.

The Cleveland Clinic, which has always been a research, clinical, and technology leader, has used e-health for years as part of a core patient strategy to improve access to care. While the provider has had great success offering telemedicine for urgent and chronic care, Becker’s reports the provider is currently developing an application to support patients with chronic back pain. The app, as conceived, will teach patients exercises to alleviate their lower back pain, thus reducing the costs associated with ER visits.

But the Cleveland Clinic’s work in the orthopedic space has been built upon preceding data from peer-reviewed studies that show providing certain types of orthopedic treatments via virtual visits are both safe and lead to higher patient satisfaction scores.

One such study from 2016, entitled Quality of Care for Remote Orthopaedic Consultations Using Telemedicine: a Randomised Controlled Trial,” followed four hundred orthopedic patients to measure their experience with a virtuul visit verses a standard on-site appointment. Their findings showed the orthopedists and the patients they served considered e-Health, “safe to offer video-assisted consultations for selected orthopaedic patients.”

Conclusions

It’s clear there is a perfect storm brewing that includes the push for value-based reimbursement, increasing healthcare costs, and a patient population interested in the convenience of e-health applications.

While hospitals are widely adopting telemedicine applications, medical practice providers finally have an opportunity to harness the power of e-health with applications like OrthoLive. OrthoLive is a cloud-based subscription platform designed by an orthopedist to help these specialists take advantage of the promise that e-health holds.

Telemedicine can help the ortho provider improve patient volumes by offering virtual visits as an alternative to traditional on-site exams. They are especially helpful for patients with painful orthopedic conditions, cutting their travel, the time they spend waiting, and overall costs for the clinical visit.

OrthoLive can help your practice achieve and sustain a competitive advantage under the new value-based paradigm. Contact us to see a demo of how this application can benefit your patients and your practice.

Topics: "telehealth", "reimbursement", e-health