Providers and Patients Alike Are Warming to Telehealth
Nationwide, the conversation has pivoted to telehealth for improving access to medical care both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concept of supporting remote office visits is not new, but the expansion of direct audio and visual consultations between healthcare providers and patients was being stifled by persisting doubts regarding ease of use and efficacy.
The coronavirus pandemic changed all that. All of a sudden, providers and patients across the country, in hospital systems and medical practices of all sizes and specialties, have begun to rely on telehealth to enable medical encounters with increasing safety.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Telehealth and What to Expect Going Forward
To better comprehend the rapid growth of telehealth, it’s important to consider where we were just one year ago. A report from MarketsandMarkets Research forecasted that the global telehealth market would grow from $25.4 billion to $55.6 billion by the year 2025 — an average of almost 17% per year.
That same study asserted that the United States accounts for approximately 60% of the world’s telehealth market. Several rationales for these projections were cited, including: a rapidly aging populace, escalating chronic illnesses, a scarcity of primary-care doctors, the necessity to reduce costs, and the benefits of telehealth for spanning rural populations.
Approval of telehealth just over a year ago was already robust.
The researchers behind these particular studies had plenty of data to draw upon. But none of them could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic, now the largest single driving force of telehealth across the nation.
Although the societal and financial repercussions of the pandemic continue to come to fruition in ways no one can completely anticipate, one thing is certain: Coronavirus is apt to generate greater acceptance of remote visits as a component of day-to-day healthcare and — as long as those visits are done properly — even higher satisfaction rates among patients.
How Can Telehealth Benefit Both Patients And Providers?
Enhance Patient Engagement with Remote Monitoring
Treating patients proactively compels clinicians to educate their patients on how to care for themselves between clinical visits. With a large increase in chronic health conditions, employing telehealth for remote monitoring is just one way that medical providers can vitalize patient outcomes while still reducing costs. Today, telehealth is being used to document patient metrics from the comfort of the patient’s own home, while remote teams act as coach and counselor as they involve patients in their own journey toward health.
Expand Access to Care and Reach More Patients
With a mounting shortage of physicians, telehealth can help extend provider networks in new ways to boost access to healthcare. Telehealth can be used to connect with patients in rural areas and outside the normal care delivery systems. The apparatus can be used for mid-level patient education as well as physician diagnosis, reaching a great number of people in innovative ways.
Improve Clinical Workflows and Optimize Practice Efficiency
Telehealth has proven to increase clinical workflow efficiency. It can serve as a nexus for faster prioritization of care delivery, triaging each case and enhancing communication by capturing, storing, and utilizing patient data for greater medical decision-making.
Increase Practice Revenue
Telehealth is less time-consuming than traditional office visits, both for the patient and provider. Telehealth can allow physicians to bill for uncompensated phone calls while also extending hours to secure more billable time. Telehealth can also provide a unique selling point for practices, attracting and retaining more patients with new models of care.
Reduce Practice Overhead
Unlike expensive hospital systems, SaaS (Software as a Service) telehealth applications are generally much cheaper to implement. The cost of a telehealth visit is far less than traditional on-site visits. Recent studies have shown that the average cost of an emergency room visit is $1,734,while the average cost of an on-site doctor’s office visit is $146. Conversely, a telehealth visit is just $79 on average.
Cut Patient Costs
Patients expend a lot of money and time seeking healthcare. With a telehealth visit, the doctor comes to the patient on their phone, laptop, or other digital device. Costs related to travel, parking, childcare, and taking time off work can quickly pile up. The added effort it takes to travel to a remote doctor’s facility can be even more stressful. In some rural areas, patients must travel overnight to reach specialists in more urban regions.
Enrich Healthcare Quality
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports that telehealth enriches the quality of healthcare, especially in rural settings. This is, in large part, due to the fact that telehealth technology can improve service delivery and treatment of acute conditions. Telehealth is also being used to redirect needless ER visits. It’s also more convenient for patients to be able to receive care without having to drive long distances.
Reduce Patient No-Shows
Some urban hospitals and medical practices, in particular, have struggled with frequent no-shows. Often, this is because rural patients have to drive for many miles to receive care at these state-of-the-art facilities. No-shows have become such a consequential revenue cost center for some organizations that quality of care is being compromised, particularly on follow-up visits. When hospitals and practices expand their treatment options with telehealth, no-show rates are liable to improve dramatically.
Cultivate Patient Satisfaction
Patient satisfaction is a key performance indicator of telehealth. Data reported by Massachusetts General Hospital in January 2019 shows that 68% of patients who took part in telehealth gave it a 9 or 10 satisfaction rating on a scale of 1 to 10. Furthermore, 79% of patients surveyed reported that it was easier to schedule a follow-up appointment by way of telehealth than visiting the doctor’s office. Additionally, a J.D. Power study from October 2019 showed patient satisfaction in the range of 85% to 90%, with 84% of survey respondents stating that a virtual visit soundly addressed their medical concerns.
Decrease Chances of Contracting or Transmitting Illnesses
While healthcare providers make every effort to prevent one patient from catching something from another, it’s always a possibility — especially in crowded waiting rooms. By remaining at home, patients receive the care they need while circumventing the risk of exposure and reducing the chances that they will pass on their illnesses to someone else.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted monumental changes in the way providers practice medicine. Without the pandemic, healthcare providers probably would have found the means of caring for patients like they are now. But it probably never would have happened at such a rapid pace.
As telehealth remains a widely used option for providers during the present circumstances, the numbers are likely to offer sufficient evidence for its enduring usage in the future.
EncounterWorks can help you implement a telehealth solution that will benefit both your practice and your patients. We’ve integrated teleconferencing directly into our EHR system, making it easier to see your patients than ever before. To request a free 30-minute demonstration of EncounterWorks EHR, give us a call at 877.884.3367 today!