Telehealth and virtual care technologies remained at the forefront of the news last month. Some of the headlines included new studies that showed more than half of Americans are monitoring their health currently with at least one digital tool. Other headlines included two of the largest insurers in the nation embracing virtual technology for its proven efficacy to cut costs and improve healthcare outcomes. Finally, a study, released in a peer-reviewed journal, showed how conducting virtual tumor boards increased access to clinical studies that could save lives long-term.
As we near the end of 2019, the clinical data continues to mount in favor of telehealth applications. Here’s how telemedicine changed lives in October.
New Report Shows Patients Trust Remote Patient Monitoring
Healthcare IT News reported on a new study released last month showed, “Confidence in remote care technology is gaining traction in the United States.” The study found that 56% of Americans say they monitor their health currently with at least one digital data collection tool.
Digital connected device manufacturer ResMed conducted the study to determine how digital tools currently affect the healthcare landscape. They found that digital technologies have shown to strengthen the connection between patient and doctor. More than half of the survey participants said that these tools provide them a conduit to their physician that makes them feel more connected, not less. Participants said that remote patient monitoring devices helped them communicate with their care providers more frequently. 68% said they wanted technology to play an even larger role in this relationship.
Nearly half of the survey participants said they would prefer more online chat options and 41% said their physicians should offer more opportunities to communicate via applications. The survey also found that six in 10 participants said they have self-diagnosed their care after surfing the Internet for medical solutions for healthcare issues.
The survey indicated that the majority of Americans “want technology to play a larger role in the future of their healthcare by helping them find care easier, communicate with their doctor more efficiently, and aid in diagnosis or treatment.”
Anthem Decreases Copay for Telehealth to Encourage Utilization
Healthcare Finance News reported last month that Anthem, one of the nation’s largest insurance carriers, reduced their patient copay for telehealth services to $5 in an effort to increase utilization of these tools. The copay for traditional primary care office visits is $25 to $35.
The organization cited the cost savings benefit for employers as an impetus for the fee reduction to members. Anthem studied the claims costs associated with telehealth and found an average saving of 6% per encounter associated with diverting patients from an ER visit. An Anthem executive was quoted in the article as saying, "Integration of telemedicine is key is to how we deliver cost of care savings. We're working hard to increase engagement and utilization."
The study also showed lower utilization of imaging, lowed lab rates, and lessened use of antibiotics. It suggests that patients were not seeking follow-up care in a traditional in-person clinical setting, instead, it determined that the telehealth visit was sufficient in providing clinical resolution of patient symptoms. This is an important finding; the study noted that resistance to telehealth has stemmed in part from the argument that telehealth will serve only as the stepping stone to a traditional visit and not as a one-stop resolution of symptoms.
Data Shows Cloud-Enabled Tumor Board Review Provides Faster Insights
Georgetown University Medical Center reduced clinical tumor assessment and treatment reviews from 14-days to four by using virtual technology. Conventional tumor boards meet to discuss potential oncology treatments, study gene sequencing, and assess patients for clinical trials. But bringing together the wide-ranging specialists from oncology, pathology, patient advocates, and other care providers is time consuming and problematic.
Cloud technologies can bring together these clinicians without the complexities of travel and scheduling conflicts much faster. It increases the volume of cases that can be seen can improve treatment times, and potentially, save lives.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center launched a new process for virtual reviews and published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. These new virtual boards were able to make tumor assessments annually for more than 2,000 clinical trials, more than 1,000 cancer drugs, and nearly 200 genetic biomarkers. It’s an evolution that will ultimately improve patient outcomes by lowering barriers to care. For example, the researchers found that only 5% of traditional pancreatic cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. With virtual screening ,that number increased to 22%.
New UnitedHealthcare App Brings Telemedicine to Members
Also in October, UnitedHealthcare launched a new app allowing millions of members to access virtual doctor visits on any digital device. The app, called Health4Me, connects members with doctors 24/7 for care of colds, fevers, allergies, influenza, rashes, or other non-urgent conditions. Doctors can prescribe and send prescriptions directly to local pharmacies for pickup.
With more than 27 million enrollees, UnitedHealthcare is one of the largest payer organizations in the nation. The new telehealth app is part of more than $3 billion the organization invests in data technology and innovation, according to Healthcare IT News. The article quoted a UnitedHealthcare official as saying, “Digital health resources are fundamentally changing how people navigate the health system, making it possible to access care from anywhere at any time and helping remove barriers to care.”
The massive healthcare organization says that the telehealth application will be a money saver for patients who can avoid a middle of the night trip to an ER. The data shows that 25% of their ER claims could be, instead, remedied by a $50 telehealth visit. According to their claims data, the average low-severity healthcare condition treated in the ER costs $740.
OrthoLive Launches Improved Platform for Orthopedic Providers
October marked the beginning of a successful launch of the latest iteration of OrthoLive’s customized, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine application for orthopedic patients. The new platform remains an affordable subscription service suitable for any size orthopedic practice but with new features and benefits available to our clients. Talk with our team about how telehealth can be a game changer for your practice. Contact us today.