If you’ve been following the OrthoLive blogs over the past year, you’ll notice one connecting thread between every article; the benefits of telehealth applications for patients, clinical providers, and our healthcare delivery system. While we’ve been careful to back up our claims with research, the bottom-line efficacy of telehealth can be measured by the current trends showing widespread adoption and industry growth.
An executive briefing in Open Minds suggests that telehealth is at a tipping point of sorts, where widespread adoption will force a new way of thinking that encompasses the virtual house call in the same category as an in-office medical exam. They report accelerated telehealth adoption rates in the following areas:
- 96% of all health plans now offer tele-mental health services.
- 50% of Medicaid health plans offer telemedicine.
- 96% of employer health plans are expected to offer the service.
- CMS has increased reimbursement for telehealth.
- The VA has increased their telemedicine service lines.
Open Minds suggested, “Now is the time for executive teams to look at how wider adoption of telehealth could affect organizational competitive edge and sustainability.”
It’s true that today, about 40% of all primary care encounters are delivered virtually. But for the average medical practice, whose adoption of these technologies has lagged behind large healthcare entities, why is telehealth a service line to consider? We have 10 reasons why even the smallest practice should consider telemedicine.
Top 10 – Why Telehealth?
It’s true that not all patient encounters are appropriate for telehealth. However, it is also true that a large portion of care could be delivered via telemedicine. There are several reasons why a small practice should consider adding this technology. They include:
- Telemedicine broadens your reach by increasing patient access to care. Remote or disabled patients can more easily receive treatment by bringing the doctor to the patient in a virtual house call.
- Telehealth improves health outcomes. Patients can receive care from wherever they are, which lessens the chance that they will skip a visit to an on-site office. Too, the studies show the telehealth’s efficacy for patients with chronic conditions and for reducing unnecessary ER visits.
- Telehealth reduces clinical overhead, a fact that is especially important to the cash-strapped small practice. We know that remote monitoring can cut costs, but a virtual visit can even reduce overhead and improve efficiencies in a small practice.
- Telemedicine can reduce provider shortages, which will become equally important in both primary and specialty care. Part of the efficiency gained includes a reduction in clinical wait times and in the time it takes to provide care. Telehealth simply increases the efficiency of care delivery, allowing you to serve more patients faster.
- Telehealth engages your patients in their own treatment in new ways. Today we know that mobile health applications increase patient education, allowing our clients more control over their health. Telehealth is care delivered right to the patient in a one-on-one focused on their handheld digital device, a tool widely in use by all age brackets. The studies show that the virtual visit engages patients and encourages better outcomes in new and more effective ways.
- Telemedicine improves care delivery and patient communication. It can help with care continuity by allowing multi-specialty consults via videoconference. It can also connect chronically ill patients with an extended care network of providers, educators, and clinical or community advocates.
- Telehealth can improve organizational efficiency. For example, using physician extenders in a virtual environment can cut costs while generating additional revenue for a practice. Neither the clinical provider nor the patient is required to travel during these visits, and the efficiency and convenience of this service is a big benefit to both.
- Telemedicine can improve your bottom line by allowing a practice to extend its office hours to capture more patients without worrying about the additional drain on office staffing and utilities. These patient visits are also typically of shorter duration, which maximizes the efficiency of the service.
- Patients are interested in telehealth as a service and patient satisfaction surveys show that, after using the tool, the majority are pleased with telemedicine. A 2017 study from The Advisory Board showed that up to 77% of healthcare consumers would consider seeing a virtual provider over traveling to an office for treatment.
- Your competitors are using or planning to use telemedicine. Achieving competitive advantage is a key metric for any medical practice in 2019. There are well-documented benefits of telehealth, and the majority of hospitals and health systems now offer these services. To compete means to adopt new ways of providing virtual care just like your larger competitors.
While these are some of the top reasons for adopting telehealth technology, what trends are holding back provider and patient adoption? What does the future of telehealth look like in tomorrow’s medical practice?
The Future of Telehealth in the Medical Practice
“Based on the results of the field study, there remains surprisingly low adoption rates regardless of the type of practice, even though 75% of doctors recognize that a portion of their patient base would benefit from telemedicine. Yet, the same group reported about 17% in current implementation.”
Ironically, the small independent practice is one of the healthcare segments lagging behind in telehealth adoption. But payers have increased reimbursement and have begun dismantling barriers to using these tools. Employers are increasingly offering a telehealth option for workers both via occupational health and traditional healthcare. The vast majority of hospitals offer a variety of telehealth options across service lines. Why are small practices lagging behind?
Change management is a crucial part of any new technology adoption, and it’s possible that it is simply too unwieldy for a smaller practice to even consider one more new thing in a healthcare practice that has seen so much so fast. Too, there are simply not enough services like OrthoLive, which is an orthopedic-specific telehealth subscription service that makes it easy for even the smallest of providers to launch their own virtual practice. While telehealth can be expensive to launch in a large hospital setting, newer Internet service models such as OrthoLive offer a low-cost alternative to traditional telemedicine technology.
Talk with the team at OrthoLive about the benefits of telehealth on your practice. We can help you roadmap an implementation for this new tool to benefit you and your patients.