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Telemedicine FAQs

Posted by James Baker, Chief Medical Officer | May 20, 2018 |
James Baker, Chief Medical Officer


Experienced clinical providers in established practices are sometimes reluctant to adapt to change but especially to the evolution of technology. Typically these providers end up debating the need for telemedicine with one or two technology champions in a practice.

But change is upon us, and the future success of the independent orthopedic practice will depend upon the ability to adapt and make use of healthcare innovations -- including telehealth.

This article will lay a baseline for the technology skeptics in your practice by sharing some of the more frequently asked questions from the orthopedists we’ve worked with around the country. While the capabilities for telemedicine technology have been around since the 1950s, it’s changed tremendously as applications have opened doors in hospitals and medical practices to a brand new way of treating patients.

This article will also show you how barriers to telemedicine are finally being dismantled as well as answer some of the more typical questions we hear from clinical teams.

Telemedicine 101

Telemedicine is called by several names, including telehealth and e-health; all have to do with the remote delivery of healthcare services via an electronic transmission.

There are all kinds of telemedicine options today, from mobile apps to two-way videos and webcams. The technologies used could include the Internet, telephones, wireless, or satellite services. mHealth is a form of telehealth that uses mobile phone technology to provide video access to treatment.

Telehealth applications could also include Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which use on-site hardware typically in a home setting to monitor a patient with wearable electronic sensors. These devices transmit data via a wireless connection to the Internet where it is intercepted and interpreted by clinical teams.

No matter what the platform, telemedicine involves the ability to use technology to remotely monitor and/or provide clinical expertise to a patient that is not at your facility. This could include a clinical video consultation with the patient, which is the service that OrthoLive provides.

What are the Benefits of Telemedicine?

The primary benefit of telemedicine is convenience and accessibility; patients do not have to drive to your facility for treatment. With this technology, busy practitioners can actually perform a sort of “house call,” bringing their expertise to the patient’s digital device. It’s no wonder that a recent Cisco survey showed 74% of patients would prefer the convenience of remote access visits to in-person treatment.

Harvard Medical School quantified the actual cost to the patient of visiting the doctor and concluded that, between the time spent traveling, parking, and waiting, it costs the average patient $43 per visit to your practice. Conversely, the average telemedicine visit lasts about six minutes and can be conducted from the patient’s couch at home.

For doctors, this convenience includes faster visits and reduced overhead. As costs increase in the orthopedic practice and reimbursement declines, it simply makes sense that providers will look for ways to increase revenue while decreasing overhead.

Telemedicine applications also cut down on the expense of patient no-shows, a problem that FierceHealthcare suggests costs billions annually.

Finally, the surveys show an extremely high patient satisfaction rating for physicians that leverage telemedicine. A 2016 survey showed a 94 to 99% satisfaction score for patients utilizing the service.

How Prevalent is Telemedicine?

“…Trending information shows a positive outlook for the adoption of telemedicine to provide patient care and enhance physician communication, while continuing to move technological advancements in the space forward.”
HIMSS Analytics

The American Telemedicine Association calls telemedicine technology “a significant and rapidly growing component of health care in the United States.” According to their statistics, there are 200 telemedicine networks and 3,500 service locations in the United States. Currently, more than one million Americans use remote cardiac monitors and the V.A. commonly provides telehealth services in more than 300,000 unique care delivery instances each year.

While these are just a few examples; a new study from HIMSS Analytics says the use of telemedicine has risen to 71% among providers. This is a significant increase in adoption rates from 54% in 2016.

Hospitals have been the primary user of telemedicine to date; more than half now offer the service.

Is Telehealth Safe and HIPAA Compliant?

Telemedicine is both safe and HIPAA compliant, with decades of compiled clinical data, along with standards and best practices established by oversight organizations such as the American Telemedicine Association.

Telemedicine services must follow the HIPAA Security Rule requiring technical safeguards to protect patient personal health information (PHI) transmitted over the Internet. Typically this means the data must be encrypted in order to remain compliant.

It is important to note that SMS, Skype, or emails are not accepted as HIPAA compliant forms of patient communication.

Trends Affecting Telemedicine Today

“Providing telehealth access not only makes a smaller practice more competitive, it can also increase revenue. This can include seeing more patients online and in the practice as well as taking advantage of numerous reimbursement opportunities from government and private payers. This year, Medicare has 96 codes for telehealth-related payments.”
Medical Economics

Mordor Intelligence predicts the telemedicine market to grow by more than 18% by 2021 to more than $66 million in the U.S. What’s driving these predictions, of course, is our own obsession with digital devices, particularly within the millennial population. Consumer demand will remain focused on mobility and cloud access, which is forcing the last barriers to telemedicine to finally begin to fall. One of those barriers has been reimbursement.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) says that nearly all state Medicaid programs now reimburse for these programs and private payers “are embracing coverage for many telehealth services.” The AHA advocates for the technology, calling for the “resolution of legal and regulatory challenges that hinder the provision of telehealth services.”

In fact telemedicine reduces readmission rates and emergency room visits. The AHA says the evidence shows telemedicine cuts costs in hospitals and medical practices, while increasing access and the quality of care.

As the healthcare paradigm shifts to value-driven reimbursement, telemedicine simply makes more sense.

Telemedicine in Your Practice

Connected healthcare is smarter healthcare. That’s why companies like OrthoLive have created new, innovative ways to apply telemedicine in the orthopedic practice. Our subscription service helps the small to mid-sized orthopedics practice conduct telemedicine under an affordable subscription service that is not only HIPAA-compliant but also very popular with patients and staff. Contact our team for a complimentary demo today.

Topics: About Telemedicine, Provider, "telehealth", "telemedicine"

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