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Telemedicine has been known to reach the most remote areas of the US, bringing high quality and mobile solutions to potentially scarce rural care. It has demonstrated the ability to overcome the challenges of medical staff shortages and geographical distance between doctor and patient, while improving a patient’s access to care by the right provider at the right time. Below are seven trends that demonstrate how telehealth is changing the way the healthcare industry handles modern challenges and why we’re seeing adoption of this new healthcare practice.
“The number of U.S. health systems with consumer-service telehealth programs is on pace to nearly double from 2016 to 2018, according to findings from the Hospital & Health Systems 2016 Consumer Telehealth Benchmark Survey by Teladoc. Seventy-six percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems either have in place or expect to implement a consumer telehealth program by 2018.” – H&HN
The topic of telehealth and telemedicine has been coming up more and more. While it may seem like a newish trend (at least to those outside the healthcare industry) it’s moving fast and is already seeing enthusiastic adoption. As the field matures, healthcare organizations will refine the way to provide these services.
“Through the use of telemedicine and telestroke in rural care, the University of Virginia (UVA) reduced 30-day hospital readmission rates by 40 percent for patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, stroke, and joint replacement.” – mHealth Intelligence
One of the biggest topics in healthcare right now is how to address and lower readmission rates. Telemedicine offers an easier way to provide follow-up care for many patients and is showing signs of helping healthcare organizations reduce readmissions for even the sickest of patients.
“A Wisconsin-based healthcare provider is using a simple telehealth platform to extend its counseling program to consumers hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic. Just a therapist and a camera is needed to provide powerful, in-home care to those in need of mental health services.” – mHealth Intelligence
Technology can sometimes have a steep adoption curve, but some healthcare organizations are finding success with the simplest telehealth solutions that allow care providers to connect with remote patients. No matter what approach an organization takes, it’s important to choose a solution that protects private patient information and meets HIPAA compliance standards where necessary.
“For people living in cities, the constant sight of red lights and sound of sirens can be taxing. Their omnipresence can be particularly frustrating given that around 80 percent of calls to 911 aren’t actual emergencies. To cut back on these expensive and often unnecessary trips to the hospital, cities are revamping their emergency services programs. Houston, a sprawling metropolis made up of more than 2 million people, is leading the charge. In 2014, the city launched a telemedicine service that has reduced 80 percent of the number of unnecessary emergency visits.” – Government Technology
We often think of telemedicine helping people who live in rural areas without easy access to care or specialists, or people who are homebound and have difficulty getting to a doctor’s office. However, telemedicine is finding another subset of adopters – people who find it hard to fit a doctor’s visit into their busy life. Whether they can’t take time off work, struggle with childcare or any other reason, telehealth services are finding a foothold in more populated areas.
Easier access to care has always meant fewer emergency situations since people get treatable ailments taken care of before things get so bad that they require an ER visit. Telemedicine is helping make this even more of a reality, even in urban areas.
“Research published in the North Carolina Medical Journal found that after a telepharmacy team (pharmacists, dieticians, primary care providers) conducted 1,215 visits over 2.5 years with 365 unique patients, they helped to lower key indicators of diabetes-related symptoms. Patients also experienced lower rates of depression and anxiety associated with diabetes.” – mHealth Intelligence
Having a chronic illness doesn’t just take a toll on the body, it can also lead to stress, anxiety and even depression. While telemedicine programs are likely geared toward helping patients manage their specific illness, having an easy-to-access healthcare option or even a provider that actively reaches out to offer reminders and assistance can create a true partnership between the patient and their healthcare providers. The research cited above suggests that the constant interactions associated with telemedicine can have additional positive benefits beyond simply managing illness.
“For many hospitals, a telenocturnist (an staff member that works overnight but remotely) program can strike the right chord financially. Having a real, live doctor on site overnight can run $150 to $175 an hour or more. A telemedicine doctor, meanwhile, can demand $50 to $75 an hour, and that cost is spread out across several hospitals, who pay either a flat rate for access to the service or a per-consult fee. One healthcare provider reduced staffing costs by some $40,000 a year by using a telenocturnist program.” – mHealth Intelligence
Telemedicine doesn’t just benefit patients, it can help healthcare providers too. Having on-call practitioners be remote during traditionally quieter periods (and when it makes sense for the type of care being provided) can save hospitals a lot of money.
This may also manifest with specialists as telemedicine matures. If a specialist is able to consult remotely, hospitals won’t necessarily have to keep their own staff of specialists in house.
“A survey this by Nemours Children’s Health System shows that while only 15% of the 500 parents who responded to an online query have accessed pediatric telemedicine, 64% plan to use it within the next year for common childhood conditions such as fever and respiratory ailments and for well-child visits. When compared with a 2014 survey by Nemours, however, the use of online doctors’ visits has grown by 125%, and parents’ awareness of telemedicine services has increased 88%.” – Health Leaders Media
Kids go to the doctor … a lot. Whether it’s for a general checkup or a new parent is concerned about their child’s well-being, telemedicine offers the opportunity to handle routine or preliminary care remotely, saving the parent a potentially unnecessary trip to the doctor’s office or ER. With busy parents, this trend is poised to catch on quickly.
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