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Why Consider Telemedicine?

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | May 10, 2018 |
Michael Greiwe, MD


Telemedicine uses technology to improve patient access and expand clinical treatment options while cutting costs. While many hospital networks have been using telemedicine for years, adoption has been slow in the independent medical practice, primarily because of the high cost of implementing the technology and, perhaps, the reluctance by established providers to embrace the changing service paradigm.

Yet today’s consumer is not only interested in the convenience of online physician access – they’re demanding it.

Today, firms like OrthoLive offers new, more cost-effective approaches to telemedicine as an online software-as-a-service package. For the smaller independent orthopedic practice, this can provide real benefits for both patient and provider. But what are the documented benefits of this technology?

Since telemedicine has been around for years, there is data tracking the technology’s ROI. This article will explore the benefits of telemedicine for both patients and their clinical providers.

New Healthcare Research Shows Clinicians’ Telemedicine ROI

Becker’s Spine Review released new findings from a healthcare research firm showing that clinical teams are giving high marks to telemedicine applications in their practices. The results indicate that healthcare providers continue to reap the benefits of telehealth in their clinics and hospitals.

The research, from Sage Growth Partners, a Baltimore healthcare marketing and strategy firm, assessed the attitudes of 100 healthcare executives and clinical providers. Here is what they found:

  • 56% of the executives surveyed are using telehealth applications.
  • 86% say they’re making these platforms a strategic priority for their organizations.
  • 75% say their budget for telemedicine is going to increase.
  • More than one-half say telehealth has – and will – transform care delivery.
  • 75% of those surveyed are interested in expanding telemedicine for post-acute care.
  • 75% see positive ROI within three years in their outpatient clinics.

What continues to drive telehealth adoption is not only our increasing reliance on digital technology. Declining reimbursement and a serious provider shortage in most markets are forcing healthcare providers to adopt new ways of providing treatment to underserved populations. Statistics from Truven Health Analytics show that the majority of costly ER visits are unnecessary. Telemedicine offers new efficiencies with a technology that has been in place for decades.

All of these challenges have come together in the perfect storm for telehealth adoption. The market for these applications is exploding as clinical teams across the country seek new ways of staying ahead of the competition.

AAOS Gives Telemedicine High Marks

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recently published an article citing the four primary benefits of telemedicine:

  • Improved patient access to care.
  • Reduced clinical delivery costs.
  • Improved safety and quality.
  • Increased patient satisfaction.

The article suggests that primary and urgent care are currently the most widely-used applications for the technology, but that orthopedists are seeing ROI in both pre- and post-op treatments. The authors suggest, “With bundled payments and other value-based contracts looming, telehealth offers efficiencies that can improve profits and deliver conveniences that delight both patients and caregivers.”

Studies Show Telemedicine Improves Patient Satisfaction and Access to Care

While some of the barriers to telehealth adoption may include the clinicians’ fears that their patients aren’t comfortable with the technology, studies exist that show patient satisfaction scores actually improve. For example:

  • Missouri
    The Missouri Telehealth Network has reported that both clinical providers and patients give two thumbs up to telemedicine. Patients in Missouri, which has large swaths of rural areas, have benefited tremendously from the increased access that telemedicine provides. A full 90% of the consumers and medical teams that use the service give it high marks. The network provides telehealth for more than 30,000 visits annually in a variety of specialty settings.
  • New York
    WRVO, an affiliate of National Public Radio featured segment on telemedicine that showed the promise of the application for hard-to-reach service areas. In 2016 New York legislators removed one of the barriers to widespread telemedicine adoption by passing a law that requires payers to cover telehealth. The state hasn’t looked back; telemedicine technology is being used to increase access to care for rural patients, particularly in upstate New York. It’s particularly helpful for providing access to specialty providers that simply aren’t available in many of the northern counties of the state.
  • Pennsylvania
    The Annals of Family Medicine recently published findings of a pilot program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Pennsylvania designed to offer primary care visits via telemedicine visits. Follow-up surveys of the patients treated showed that “patients were highly satisfied with the use of telemedicine.”

In the orthopedic practice, consider how many patients would prefer dialing in instead of driving in for a 10-minute recheck with a painful joint or bone injury. Understanding the potential for telemedicine means considering new treatment modalities that offer convenience for your “customers” while lowering clinical overhead costs in your practice.

Change is Coming – Is Your Practice Ready?

“What's a service orthopedic practices can offer that is popular with patients, reimbursed by most payers, not too expensive to implement, and deliverable in all 50 states?

Telehealth: Although it's obviously not suitable for every type of patient encounter, the value telehealth confers to patients, practices, and payers has pushed adoption to the tipping point. These services also allow practices to differentiate themselves.”

Telehealth at the Tipping Point
Betty A. Hovey & Cheryl Toth
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

The shifting landscape towards value-based payment incentives is forcing the business of medicine to change. Healthcare providers must increase access to services while cutting costs. Sage Growth Partners, in a recent white paper on telemedicine, suggests, “Providers and market innovators are turning to telehealth as a potential solution for these challenges.” They suggest telemedicine platforms can generate additional revenue while cutting costs, and improve patient satisfaction scores by increasing access to care.

OrthoLive is one of the innovators in this space, offering a targeted telemedicine application subscription service that can improve your practice bottom line. If your team hasn’t had a demo, there’s no time like the present to look more closely at how telehealth can improve your practice. Contact us today to find out more.

Topics: Provider, Practice, "telehealth"

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