Telemedicine is here to stay. It’s not a fleeting trend, nor the “flavor of the month”. It’s a real, substantive, access-expanding, cost-reducing, reimbursable service that is changing the way medicine is delivered to patients across the country and the globe. That doesn’t mean it’s replacing traditional medicine – quite the opposite. It’s expanding the reach of medicine into remote rural areas as well as underserved and unserved urban neighborhoods. It’s reaching young children and seniors who have neither transportation nor access to specialized medicine. Telemedicine expands physician care without expanding overhead.
One of the earliest obstacles to the widespread adoption of telemedicine was reimbursement. That is being resolved, as the majority of states have passed parity laws that reimburse telemedicine visits at the same rate as face-to-face office visits. Thirty-eight states now have parity laws, and every one of them covers live video. When a state passes a parity law for third-party payers, it includes reimbursement by Medicare and Medicaid as well. Even states who haven’t passed private payer parity laws have passed them for Medicaid. In fact, 48 states and the District of Columbia have passed Medicaid telemedicine reimbursement laws.
Healthcare executives see the handwriting on the wall. There is a growing acceptance among healthcare executives that telemedicine is a service they must offer to remain competitive. In a recent survey, more than a quarter of health industry executives named telemedicine as one of the factors having the biggest impact on healthcare.
Back to the business of caring for patients
The beauty of telemedicine is that it can be integrated according to the unique requirements of the healthcare organization, in ways that expand services and patient volume. Healthcare executives say they are implementing telemedicine for various purposes (many use it for multiple purposes so numbers don’t total 100%):
- Connected care platforms to reach patients in rural areas: 24 percent
- Follow-up care with patients: 24 percent
- Patient population health management, including chronic conditions: 23 percent
- After-hours patient consults: 12 percent
Whether it involves consulting with housebound seniors, chronically ill children in rural towns or patients who are traveling, telemedicine allows physicians to get back to the business of caring for patients.
Telemedicine increases patient satisfaction
Telemedicine increases patient engagement and satisfaction, thereby improving patient retention. In fact, 82 percent of physicians say they are shifting to internet and telemedicine-based services to improve patient satisfaction scores.
- Telemedicine services are delivered without wait times. Patients want their questions answered without waiting two weeks for an appointment and two hours in the doctor’s office.
- Virtual storefronts are open when the physician knows he or she is available, scheduling patients without waits.
- Parents of young children want access to physicians. They want proactive, preemptive care that might avoid trips to the emergency room.
- Mental health patients know the challenges of maintaining a therapy schedule when traveling and worry how to address crises. Telepsychiatry provides a continuum of care regardless of location.
Telemedicine puts physicians in the palm of the patient’s hand – and lots of them. The latest estimates show that seven million patients are now accessing healthcare through telemedicine.
The right platform makes it easy to set up a virtual practice. Salus Telehealth has three main features:
- Patients use a unique code or link that takes them directly to your virtual practice
- Patients see only the providers within your practice group
- You can brand the private group with your practice logo
Expanding practices, not overhead
here are many patients who live with obstacles to care, including transportation, physical mobility, and long distances. Telemedicine permeates those obstacles and allows quality care to be delivered in real time.
Remember Plains, Georgia, the tiny town of 776 people that is home to former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn? The only medical center in Plains closed last year. This year a new primary care clinic opened – and it’s a telemedicine clinic. Established by the Mercer University School of Medicine system, the clinic will be staffed with medical school faculty and will offer on-site and telemedicine visits. Services will include mental health telehealth visits, called “telemental health” and consultations with specialists. The opportunity to combine telemedicine with face-to-face visits relieved some of the burden on the existing health system and made it possible to deliver care to the rural area.
It’s never been harder to sustain a viable medical practice. Sole practitioners, multi-provider practices and healthcare systems all operate under the same fiscal pressures. Telemedicine offers the ability to expand patient care and revenue. It is a rare example of technology that is measurable, improves patient outcomes and generates revenue. It is a technology that is here to stay because it demonstrably removes obstacles to access and quality care.
If you are interested in telemedicine but have questions about how to begin, call us. We’ll walk you through the process and help you set up your first online practice.