BEFORE You Offer Telemedicine To Patients READ THIS
It seems clear to us why there are some things you might need to know BEFORE you offer telemedicine to patients, but you might need some convincing. Here are four points to consider.
Telemedicine as a concept is not new.
The idea behind telemedicine is not new. The early technology was with us longer than we register in our daily thoughts. One of the earliest uses was in the hospital setting. The process took place in the 1960s. They used a closed-circuit TV link between the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital for consultations.
However, 2020 got our attention in a big way! From quarantining, to social distancing, to unexpected shutdowns. The impact on the medical community has been astounding.
It doesn't matter what kind of practice you have, I am sure you were impacted! Cardiologist and endocrinologist follow-ups are now virtual. Your child's well pediatrician and possibly even your plastic surgeon are now offering Telemedicine to patients.
The latest technology is what is new.
Thanks to modern technological advances in telecommunications, medical practitioners today have primarily three ways to offer telemedicine:
Specialists using store-and-forward technology receive patient data in the form of medical images or bio signals as those become available from the patient. In turn, Store-and-forward technology eliminates the need for a personal visit to the specialist. So, this telemedicine method finds advocates in dermatology, pathology, and radiology where a specialist can read the images in order to create or confirm a diagnosis.
Another popular tool is remote monitoring which is also known as self-monitoring. Patients and doctors use a variety of technological advancements to monitor from a distance those patients who suffer from chronic illnesses.
Also, telemedicine can help keep up with disease progression in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And it can also help monitor whether asthma meds are controlling asthma flare-ups.
Real-time interactive visits take place by phone, online, and via home visits in lieu of office visits. Advances in video technology allow providers to make physical assessments through long-distance evaluation techniques. In turn, this type of telemedicine is particularly popular for rural areas where patients must travel long distances to see medical providers in-person.
For example, Tele-rehabilitation, relies on the visual components that go along with video conferencing or webcams. In turn, medical providers can talk to their patients, evaluate their condition's progress, and prescribe therapy all without leaving the clinic.
CONS of offering telemedicine to patients in a med spa practice.
A hybrid between a medical clinic and a day spa, the med spa is a suitable organization to offer telemedicine to its patients but only after reviewing the pros and cons that come with such an upgrade to your practice.
New equipment and the training to go with it.
The prospect of buying special equipment or upgrading current telecommunications systems means spending money. Training also involves spending additional, non-billable time teaching staff how to use the new equipment. That "costs" money, too. Moving to telemedicine may also change staffing requirements if one staff member can see more patients remotely than they can in-person.
Losing that personal touch
Many patients still prefer personal interaction with their favorite medical provider. After all, they have developed a trusting relationship with that person. They may feel comforted by eye-to-eye contact and a warm handshake. Still, for follow-up appointments or for those times when patients cannot come to see the medical provider (like the current quarantine, for example) offering telemedicine to patients is better than not seeing the patient at all.
In some rural areas, connecting to medical providers through spotty broadband coverage may pose difficulties and result in interrupted or incomplete care.
Patient privacy rules
Deciding to incorporate telemedicine into any practice means staying on top of the proliferation of data and sensitive information privacy laws to make sure you are carrying out the enhancements to your practice in strict compliance with those rules.
Security and interoperability issues
Electronic health record systems do not always play well together among providers. That can affect the accuracy of records distributed using telemedicine, too. As with any telecommunications endeavor, the security of those records and transactions is a paramount consideration.
PROS to offering telemedicine to patients
According to a recent Cisco survey, 74% of patients prefer a virtual medical visit to an in-person visit.
Here are some positive aspects to adding telemedicine to your toolbox:
Today's digital world
he majority of today's consumers and their healthcare providers have smartphones, computers, and tablets at their disposal so offering telemedicine to patients is a perfect fit.
Improvements in telemedicine software
If patients have a smartphone or computer, they can participate in a remote visit with a medical professional. And the software needed for the medical provider is less expensive now than at any earlier time. Telemedicine apps also save providers money with built-in enrollment, scheduling, and billing features.
Lower healthcare costs
In-person medical visits often mean patients must take time off work and extra time to make the commute to the office. In-person visits also result in transportation expenses for non-drivers and mobility-challenged people who must have assistance getting to an office visit. Homebound patients may find it nearly impossible to physically come in. Remote monitoring saves money for patients, medical providers, and insurance companies. Many patients report they are pleased with remote monitoring because it is less costly. The practice also may result in more frequent monitoring due to its convenience factor for mobility-challenged patients.
Boosts clinic revenue
Remote visits reduce the incidences of patients not showing up for appointments. It can result in lower overhead expenses if part of the week or a work-day is conducted at home.
Telemedicine increases patient access to specialists. Rural healthcare patients especially benefit from remote access since there are only about 40 medical providers for every 100,000 patients in those areas. That means a mind-boggling patient load of about 2,500 patients per provider. That also means longer transportation times for in-person visits. In general, telemedicine results in better consultations for those living with chronic medical conditions.
Better quality care
Patients who can reach out and enter into real-time dialogues with their medical providers improve healthcare outcomes. Perhaps above all, telemedicine is a milestone in patient-centered health care.
If you would like to learn more about ways to offer telemedicine to patients in your practice, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We can help you get started the right way.