Healthcare is adopting telemedicine at a slow, steady pace. However, patients want broad access to telemedicine now. Demand is far outpacing supply.
There are two facts that physicians need to know about consumer demand for telemedicine that outweigh all others:
- Just over one-third (34 %) of parents with children under the age of 18 are willing to switch doctors to get access to video visits.
- More than three-quarters (77%) of consumers say they would consider seeing a physician virtually.
All age groups express a willingness to use telemedicine to gain easier, more immediate access to physicians:
- 30 percent of those aged 35 to 44 are willing to switch physicians to get access to telemedicine, as are 26 percent of those aged 18 to 34.
- More than half (53%) of those who want video visits with their physician are over the age of 65 and nearly three-quarters (72%) are aged 45-54.
Physicians need to know that consumers want the ability to access healthcare just as they access other services. They can bank online, and quickly purchase goods, groceries and services through online purveyors. They can track their steps, review their eating habits and set the thermometer at home while at work through digital apps. The inability to access health services in the same way now seems incongruous. Consumers are beginning to vote with their feet and seek out the physicians that do offer telemedicine services.
Meeting consumer demand while protecting quality
While meeting patient demand to improve satisfaction is essential, there is also the need to safeguard quality and patient safety. Physicians have a very real concern that the latest shiny technology won’t truly benefit the patient and will present more risk than reward. That’s a concern to be taken seriously. It is the bar that all telemedicine services must meet, and many do.
For example, New York Presbyterian (NYP) used telemedicine to implement a telepsychiatry service in the emergency department so patients would not have to return to the ED for follow up visits. When it did, it reduced patient wait times from “24 hours to under 60 minutes”. The services were HIPAA compliant and met the quality and safety requirements involved in treating patients in need of behavioral health services.
Children in rural Kansas receive specialized pediatric visits via telemedicine services. Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas delivers pediatric rheumatology services via physician video visits. Four times a year, a rheumatologist and RN conduct at 45-minute telemedicine visit with children who live 157 miles from the hospital. It delivers care to children who suffer from painful autoimmune diseases. Without telemedicine, they might not be able to visit the hospital regularly to receive the care they need.
Kaiser Permanente (KP) knows the benefits of telemedicine and is incorporating it into their standard of care. CEO Bernard Tyson says that KP members have more than 100 million encounters with company physicians each year, 52% of which are now virtual visits.
Telemedicine is a good for physicians as well
Telemedicine has real benefits for physicians as well as patients. Remote monitoring improves physician understanding of chronic disease care, patient behaviors, medication adherence and their impact on outcomes. It can collect real-time data, and that leads to better disease management and better prescribing of medications.
The ability to have online practices can vastly improve a physician’s reach, create more efficient scheduling and improve patient satisfaction. When surveyed about their experience with different forms of telemedicine, providers said it resulted in “extensive” cost savings in three distinct areas:
- 42 percent: wellness and prevention
- 33 percent: remote patient monitoring
- 33 percent: operations
Telemedicine solves practice issues that seem intractable.
- Telemedicine visits can reduce the 5 to 10 percent no-show rate that practices must contend with on a regular basis. When transportation, traffic, and work schedules are no longer an issue, patients show up for visits with the doctor; from their phone, their desktop, laptop or tablet.
- Telemedicine vastly improves scheduling. Patients can be scheduled online and queued up. They can be scheduled when the physician is available. Patients receive reminders that their appointment is coming up and they can make themselves available. It’s the type of patient flow that practices dream of in their brick and mortar locations.
- It’s the best way to attract new patients. Offering telemedicine services captures patients looking for those services and keeps the practice highly competitive.
Physicians who want to grow a thriving practice are carefully considering telemedicine services. They should be put through a rigorous examination and should meet HIPAA, quality and safety concerns before being adopted. However, when they are, physicians can better serve their patients and meet growing demand for real-time delivery of quality healthcare.