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Telehealth - A Best Practice for Cutting Practice Overhead

Posted by James Baker, Chief Medical Officer | August 18, 2019 |
James Baker, Chief Medical Officer

 

There is no mission without margin. That statement is certainly true for the small to mid-sized medical practice

network. If the practice is hospital-owned, there is safety in numbers, because the overarching system can

absorb practice overhead costs, making the bottom line relevant but not life threatening.

To counteract these pressures, medical practices must reduce expenses and drive revenue growth. Interestingly, there is one technology that is affordable, proven, and readily available that can achieve both goals.

Let’s explore the impact of telemedicine as a best practice for revenue growth and cost reduction in the average medical practice.

Telemedicine for Practice Overhead Reduction

Telemedicine is the practice of using modern digital technology to reach patients in new ways through video, texting, and by phone. It’s a tool that has been used successfully for decades. The positive ramifications of telemedicine stretch across health systems, in the medical practice, for ancillary and midlevel service providers, for home monitoring, and even in the workplace to cut down on OSHA events. Successful outcomes from the use of telemedicine include:

  • Improves patient engagement;
  • Expands access to care;
  • Increases practice efficiency;
  • Cuts patient costs;
  • Improves healthcare quality;
  • Improves healthcare outcomes;
  • And decreases practice overhead.

It is this last bullet that could prove to particularly beneficial to the small to mid-size practice network struggling with rising costs. While Medical Economics suggests expanding practice offerings is an important way to combat the rising cost of providing care, even they admit that adding most ancillary services “require considerable upfront investment.”

That is not the case with telemedicine, which today has a low upfront cost. While hospitals can afford to purchase kiosks and sophisticated telemedicine equipment, these tools have been democratized for even the smallest practice armed with an app, a laptop with a digital camera, a strong Wi-Fi signal, or a smartphone.

For example, OrthoLive’s telemedicine app is a flat subscription service paid monthly by the user. That makes telemedicine a low-cost addition to any medical practice, regardless of size or specialty.

But how do these tools reduce the average overhead costs for medical practices?

The first and most obvious way is that physicians and midlevels can consult with patients remotely. This saves travel time not only for the clinician but also for the patients themselves. Smaller practices can save on common overhead costs such as utilities by reducing the amount of time clinicians spend in the physical practice site.

Telemedicine can also be used to eliminate on-site follow-up visits, which frees up scheduling to increase the volume of patients with higher-revenue reimbursement codes.

But telemedicine has also shown to reduce same-day cancellations and no-shows, a phenomenon that adds big dollars in wasted time for the majority of medical practices. One children’s hospital reported a 50% reduction in no shoes by using telemedicine for their patients. There is enough data today to show that these results are not the anomaly, but instead the norm for telemedicine.

Both independent and hospital-owned medical practices can experience a reduction in overhead costs when leveraging telemedicine technology. But could these same tools also boost revenue for the struggling practice network or solo practitioner?

Telemedicine for Practice Revenue Growth

Offering telemedicine to your patients improves the convenience of providing care. It’s a way to expand your patient base to those who live in remote locations, are homebound, or simply can’t afford to take time off work. The use of telemedicine as a tool to provide care is rapidly increasing as both doctors and patients become more comfortable with these tools.

Telehealth - A Best Practice for Cutting Practice Overhead

The normalization of telemedicine couldn’t come at a better time. As the clinician shortage deepens and the cost of care mounts, the healthcare industry needs new ways to cut costs and increase their reach. Internet technology is now both affordable and widely available so that consumers can receive treatment when and where they want. This convenience will remain a key component of the healthcare delivery models of the future.

Telemedicine offers us the power to optimize billable time and increase patient flow. Scheduling a secondary queue of remote consultations on a parallel track beside in-patient visits results in a highest and best use staffing model that can add real revenue to existing practices. If your practice experiences a no-show, flipping to a virtual patient that perhaps could not be scheduled earlier in the day allows you to recoup time and revenue. The virtual environment allows you to respond immediately to variations in scheduling that the traditional office visit, with time spent traveling to the office, simply doesn’t allow.

At the same time, telemedicine can be used to attract patients. While the obvious target audience would include Millennials, the research shows that even elderly patients are comfortable with their smartphone and seeing their doctor in a virtual house call. Offering the hassle-free convenience of a telemedicine visit is a way to reach new patients as well as compete against larger hospitals or even your local Minute Clinic in a retail environment.

Telemedicine also offers clinicians a way to increase their out-of-hours services. While the on-call conversations you have with patients are often unbilled, telemedicine offers a way to provide brief consultations and check-ups into revenue boosting opportunities. This could benefit an entirely new subset of patients that work unusual hours.

Telemedicine can also increase your ability to offer same day appointments, which is a competitive point of differentiation that you can market for increased revenue. As the physician shortage worsens, your practice could capture new patients that are frustrated when their physician’s schedule is already full.

Telemedicine for the Modern Practice

Telemedicine is a low-cost alternative to traditional office visits. The technology can increase your ability to offer new tools to patients who are hungry for the convenience of the virtual visit. It also allows practices to compete with larger organizations already offering these tools. Finally, telemedicine can be used to both cut overhead costs and increase revenue at a time when every dollar counts in the small practice.

OrthoLive is standing by to talk with your orthopedic practice about the benefits of our telemedicine application. Contact us to find out more.

Topics: "reimbursement", healthcare, telemedicine cost, telehealth cost, medical practice, overhead

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