In recent years, telehealth has grown exponentially to meet the evolving demands of patients, doctors, employers, health systems, and providers. These days, it’s quickly becoming the norm to turn to virtual care to treat a growing number of health issues.
Telehealth’s rapid growth can be attributed to its ability to develop new business models to meet the needs of both patients and providers. For example, telemedicine provided an opportunity to engage in strategic pricing (which has become critical to most patient populations).
According to research, as much as 71% of healthcare providers are already using telemedicine tools to connect with patients in ambulatory and inpatient settings. Furthermore, the global telehealth market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 14.3% by 2020.
In the U.S., more than one-half of hospitals have already established a telehealth program, and 48 states now require payers to cover telemedicine.
At the same time, although telehealth solutions aren’t suitable for everyone, the addressable market at present represents as much as 45% of the U.S. population or 147 million potential patients/consumers.
Coupled with telemedicine, telehealth has an enormous role to play in improving care coordination, clinical workflows, and long-term health outcomes. When we add artificial intelligence and predictive analytics into the mix, we will access the true power of virtual health delivery systems.
Connecting Patients with Healthcare Providers
Telehealth can be described as the delivery of clinical health care services from a distance with the help of mobile technology. This can be anything from patient monitoring to remote consultations.
Previously, this technology was reserved for treating patients that lived in remote areas or in locations where there was a shortage of medical professionals. Today, it’s transformed to meet the needs of the modern connected patient who doesn’t want to waste time in waiting rooms to access care for minor but urgent conditions.
It’s mostly an innovative solution that adequately addresses the healthcare industry’s growing list of problems. The rapid advancement and proliferation of mobile technology are spurring the adoption of telehealth, and pretty soon we will witness the tipping point of the telehealth market.
Technologies That Save Lives
Telehealth saves lives, it’s a fact! Just take a look at this NEWS STORY of how an Alaska-based doctor became the patient himself after suffering a stroke. He was lucky as they were able to save him with the help of a doctor who logged in from thousands of miles away.
Telehealth also helps improve care while enabling seamless access to care. For example, take a look at the case of five-year-old Riley Cooper who lives in Collie, a town in South West region of Western Australia, 132 miles from the city of Perth and 37 miles inland from the nearest town of Bunbury.
Riley, who suffers from asthma, hasn’t had a trip to the local emergency department for a long time partly because his parents were able to access one-on-one education sessions about how to best treat his condition by video conference.
While these education sessions had a significant impact on the child’s health, it also saved his parents a lot of time and money which would have been otherwise spent on travel to get to appointments in a bigger town.
Telehealth services available to patients living in rural areas in Western Australia isn’t restricted to asthma-related education. In fact, they can now access over 30 specialties including the following:
- Blood-related disorders
- Cancer services
- Respiratory medicine
- Surgical follow-up
In the U.S., a study of veteran care found that a face-to-face consultation with a medical professional took as much as 37 days to occur. On the other hand, with telehealth, it took only 10 days to engage in an e-consultation.
This approach also helps hospitals significantly reduce the number of readmissions. Furthermore, it has also helped patients avoid costly treatments while benefitting from improved outcomes.
According to Jeff Robbins, MD, director of Telehealth and Neurodiagnostics at Tift Regional Medical Center, "telehealth has allowed us to have advanced ICU support, and that has reduced mortality rates, reduced complications and subsequent hospital stays. We are seeing a reduction in healthcare costs through home monitoring, which is lowering costly hospital visits. Our stroke program is reducing the high cost of transferring stroke and other emergencies."
Improving Hospital Revenue
Another study conducted by Nemours Children's Health System found that each remote consultation with the doctor to treat sports injuries saved health systems as much as $24 per patient.
Physicians who practice telemedicine also have the opportunity to increase their revenue because they can treat patients living outside their area, minimize missed appointments, access innovative tools to treat more patients over time and have better patient follow-ups and outcomes.
Of course, the telehealth model also screams considerably lower overheads because you don’t need another clinic staffed with medical professionals to provide care.
Patient payments which have always been a complicated issue within the industry are also much easier to manage with telehealth. This is because the model itself boils down to convenience and timing.
For example, doctors can now ask for the payment up front just for the convenience of telehealth. Furthermore, patients who aren’t sure about their insurance coverage have an opportunity to quickly pay for the convenience now (and deal with their provider later).
Telehealth also provides an opportunity to keep patient credit cards details on file to enable quick recurring payments that add to the convenience factor.
This negates the needs for patients to actively log onto patient portals to fulfill their financial obligations. This can significantly reduce patient payment related bad debts that have been historically written off by the healthcare industry.
This goes hand in hand with today’s reality that’s wholly supported by online and mobile systems. It makes complete sense as patient populations are accustomed to services provided by the likes of Amazon and Uber, and expect healthcare to function in a similar manner.
For medical practitioners and healthcare institutions hoping to incorporate telehealth into their offering have to think of cybersecurity and HIPPA compliance. As patient data is highly sensitive and much sought after by bad actors, it’s imperative to approach telehealth hand in hand with data security.
Telemedicine is here to stay, and we can expect it to evolve considerably over the next few years. As it becomes the norm, you can expect future telehealth offerings to cover new areas and create new business opportunities that we haven’t even thought about (yet).