Small medical practices are lagging behind, according to the AMA. A recent survey by the organization suggested that, while national trends show telehealth use is increasing by payers, employers, patients, and hospitals, it’s the small independent practice that is failing to keep up with these technology changes.
The American Medical Association looked at 3,500 physicians and found that just 15% are using telehealth for patient care while only 11% are using the technology for consultations with other clinicians. This bucks the trends that show telehealth use is increasing around the country.
The study suggested that the cost of telemedicine tools is prohibitive for many of these small providers. However, radiologists, psychiatrists, and cardiologists have found ways, even in smaller practices to leverage these tools.
While OrthoLive offers a low-cost telemedicine alternative to larger systems used in hospitals, it is designed specifically for orthopedic practices. How can smaller practices compete with large healthcare providers in the race to adopt telehealth tools? Why should they even care about these trends? Here are five of the top reasons even the smallest practice should find a way to leverage telemedicine in their practice.
- Patient convenience.
The statistics show that it’s getting more challenging to receive medical treatment in the U.S.:
--It takes an average of 18 days to schedule a doctor’s visit.
--It takes an average of three hours to travel to your practice, see the clinician, and travel home.
--30% of adults don’t have a primary care provider and the number is rising.
--The average cost of a routine clinical visit is $150.
Telehealth improves our access to care. It allows doctors in small practices to extend the reach of their services to remote patients. The bottom-line financial benefit for doctors is clear, but what also can’t be discounted is the convenience factor for patients that no longer want to travel “over the river and through the woods” to reach your practice. If you have patients that are waiting weeks to get an appointment or who travel long distances to reach your practice, telehealth improves upon these frustrating experiences. For clinicians treating the elderly or frail patient, telehealth becomes like a virtual house call, extending care to your most vulnerable patients. The OrthoLive application is perfect for patients with painful joint injuries or for post-surgical routine checkups, eliminating the discomfort and cost of traveling for care.
- Patient satisfaction.
There is, literally, decade’s worth of data on how telehealth technology increases patient satisfaction. There are studies showing improved patient-provider communication, increased physician empathy, improved care coordination, and other benefits experienced by patients when using telehealth. The data stems from applications at some of the biggest health systems in the country, from Kaiser Permanente to the Cleveland Clinic have used these tools to cut costs for patients and providers as well as improving access to care. Instead of waiting for care for days, a telehealth application can bring a doctor to the bedside of patients in the comfort of their own homes. These are all reasons that more than 70% of all patients say they would try telehealth if your practice offered it.
- Better patient outcomes.
Not only do you want your patients to get better, but value-based healthcare also requires a reduction in hospital readmissions and improved health outcomes. As we continue to shift to these models, finding new ways to leverage technology to help your practice work toward better health outcomes will be necessary for even the smallest practices.
Telehealth offers us a way to increase communication between doctors and patients who were recently discharged or who have acute-chronic long-term diseases. Increasing communication and convenience for patients through a virtual visit or remote monitoring tools increases the chances that important follow-up care will not be missed. We’ve all struggled with patient no-shows and understand that these missed visits can negatively affect clinical costs and the quality of care. Telehealth brings the provider to the patient, ensuring better care.
- Attract more patients.
Are you losing patients to retail clinics? Attracting and retaining patients is critical to the survival of any practice, but especially to the small provider. There is a good deal of competition for patients today, so for smaller practices to engage patients, they must find new ways to compete against everything from online telehealth providers to hospital-owned medical practices to urgent care and big box minute clinics. With the majority of patients saying they’re open to virtual care, clinical providers can capitalize on a new service offering and give their customers exactly what they want. Telehealth naturally allows providers to extend their office hours while opening new doors for engagement of digitally savvy younger populations. Today, most Americans use their cell phones for, literally, everything, so extending medical treatment into this venue will feel very comfortable for any patient with a digital connection. This applies even to seniors; the studies show even 84% of Baby Boomers use the Internet to research medical conditions and medications and nearly 60% of these populations say they want more, not less, digital interactions with their doctors.
- Improve your work-life balance.
The statistics point to a consistent fact of life in today’s clinical practice; caregivers are burning out. Physicians report a high rate of burnout and those numbers stay the same whether the doctor is employed or independent. Doctors’ report feeling rushed and harried by the constant pace along with the ever-changing nature of regulatory reform. It’s a difficult situation that is only complicated by the clinical caregiver shortages that are going to have a huge impact in the coming years. It’s a very serious problem that can be mitigated through the use of telehealth tools. Establishing a virtual service line in a small practice increases the bottom line compensation while allowing doctors and midlevels improved schedule flexibility. When on-call goes virtual it completely eliminates the stress of commuting, while also decreasing the amount of time spent per visit to provide care. Telemedicine also cuts overhead costs and improves profitability in any practice, no matter the specialty or size of the clinical team. It also helps doctors with a full caseload of chronic care patients by allowing them to see these patients when and where they want.
Today there are a variety of choices for the small practice considering telehealth and not all of these solutions are cost-prohibitive. Software-as-a-service tools such as the OrthoLive orthopedics application allow small providers to conduct virtual visits with technology they use every day, including their personal smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. If you’re a small practice orthopedic provider concerned that telemedicine is cost-prohibitive, it’s time to talk to OrthoLive. Now, you have more affordable, yet effective ways to reap the benefits of telehealth.
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