The evolving phenomenon of telehealth has been welcomed with open arms by some, and completely rejected as a viable health option for others. Some of the benefits telehealth provides are clear, with online services capable of providing a cost-effective and time-efficient way for patients, especially in rural areas, to receive treatment. On the other hand, many laws and regulations have long restricted telehealth from rapid expansion, with some arguing the patient-doctor “in-person” relationship is a must for proper treatment.
Telehealth Hits a Breakthrough
One of the major roadblocks telehealth had been experiencing was breaking through the regulatory requirements of states like Texas, Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana. Over the last few weeks, a new, modernized legislative effort is passing through these states to allow for a relationship through telemedicine . While some of these changes still require finalization, the strides made towards pushing through these barriers will have a significant effect towards the digital healthcare evolution.
Doctor and Patient Benefits
The innovation of digital healthcare comes at a time where providers are rewarded for improving patients’ health under Obamacare. Telehealth offers healthcare providers an opportunity to expand its coverage, all while centralizing care and reducing administrative work. This allows providers to offer more services at lower costs and even allows for doctor’s to make better recommendations to their patient’s by easily consulting with specialty doctors in other locations.
On the other end of the spectrum, telehealth provides patients with a lower cost and more convenient way to get treatment. With healthcare prices rising year after year, patients are looking for innovative ways to get affordable care. Additionally, many people find it difficult to take the time to go see a healthcare professional in-person, whether it be a long distance travel, inability to take time off of work, wait times in the doctor’s office, or any other number of reasons. Programs like telemedicine can offer treatment for patients with common illnesses like a cough or cold and the telemental health effort has begun expanding rapidly to provide specialized services for mental health.
New Skills Needed
The digital healthcare revolution comes with new tools and devices that doctors and healthcare professionals will need to utilize for successful telehealth implementation. New technology includes everything from fitness trackers to complex simulators to prepare for real world situations. Healthcare professionals will need to be ready and willing to communicate with their patients using a number of tools including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Telehealth’s expansion will continue in the next few years as it continues to overcome dated regulatory requirements and more people will begin to get the quality treatment they need. “Technology will eventually replace about 80 percent of what doctors do now,” says Stephen Klasko, MD, and CEO at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
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Time is money, and telemedicine can help you save both. Coming down with a common illness can cause you to miss work and feel lousy, so the quicker the recovery, the better. Many of us find it difficult to go see a doctor when we are sick. Some common reasons include the time it takes to drive to the doctor, the wait time we know we will run into once we arrive, and the cost associated with the visit. Telemedicine offers an innovative outlet for patients to receive treatment and medicine efficiently to get up and running as soon as possible. Here’s how!
- No Travel – Just like with everything else these days, you can now get a doctor at your fingertips too. Depending on your ailment, telemedicine can be used with smartphones, laptops, computers or a number of other devices to utilize video calling, emails, or phone calls. This convenient communication can help especially in rural areas where it can become a full day’s activity to go see a doctor with the long travel times. Instead, geographical borders are eliminated and a diagnosis can be made in the comfort of the patient’s home. Telemedicine has also discovered other benefits of eliminating geographic restrictions by allowing doctors to communicate with another and share information for better diagnoses from specialists.
- No Wait Time – After finally arriving at a doctor’s office, the wait times can easily take 30 minutes to an hour or longer. With telemedicine, wait times can be drastically reduced. Even during the wait, the patient is in the comfort of their own home and can proceed with their everyday activities or work as they await the doctor. Between travel time and wait time, telemedicine can easily help save a patient over 2 hours.
- Lower Cost – Using telemedicine services generally cost about half as much or less compared to a regular doctor’s visit or urgent care visit. For common illnesses like cold symptoms, telemedicine offers a quick and easy alternative to the traditional doctor visit. For those who can’t afford to take time off of work, the convenience can allow them to get treatment without missing work and allow them to get better faster instead of avoiding treatment altogether due to time and money constraints.
The future is here with telemedicine, and technology has allowed for us to have quality care at our fingertips. The savings in time and money can be attributed to both patients and doctors as the visits can be conducted efficiently and wait times can be reduced for patients, while doctors have the opportunity to see more people in a given time.
With cameras becoming ubiquitous among smartphones, computers, and tablets, consumers are beginning to utilize telemedicine and remote care options. Unlike traditional doctor’s visits, telemedicine has grown to include a variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, wireless tools, and other technological tools to get a better look at patients. Telemedicine even allows doctors to consult with each other electronically to get valuable information for diagnosis and treatments.
What are Telemedicine’s biggest benefits?
- Improved Access – No geographic restrictions
- Cost Efficiency – Shared staffing, reduced travel times, fewer hospital stays
- Improved Quality – Quality consistently as good as traditional visits, with some specialties providing greater outcomes and patient satisfaction
- Patient Demand – Consumers want reduced travel times and greater availability
Telemedicine Can Save Time and Money
Traditional doctor’s visits can be time-consuming and expensive, with long and inconvenient wait times. Let’s consider John, who works in a rural area and doesn’t have the convenience of having a doctor to visit in his immediate area. If John comes down with an ailment like a cold, ear infection, sore throat, allergic reaction, or any other common illness, a trip to the doctor could prove to be difficult and costly. Most nonemergency issues can cost around $100 at a doctor’s office, $160 at an urgent care clinic or $750 at an emergency room, but using telemedicine can bring these costs down to about $45. In addition to these costs, John would lose valuable time with his long drive and then end up waiting to see a doctor, which could take up more than half of his day. Alternatively, John uses telemedicine to call a clinician and get a diagnosis and treatment from work or the comfort of his own home. Getting treatment remotely has allowed John to get the medicine and consultation he needed without missing work or driving a long haul.
In the Global Telemedicine Market Outlook study conducted by ResearchandMarkets, the telemedicine market is expected to reach USD 40.9 Billion by 2021, up from an estimated USD 17.9 Billion in 2015. The surge in health related technologies and increased technological savviness among consumers makes telemedicine a viable option for people in remote areas, or are simply too busy to spend an entire day in the doctor’s office for something as common as a cough. Employers can get telemedicine as an easy extension of health insurance.
We can offer these services for as low as $2.00 per employee! Contact us today for pricing on your employee group or to learn more.
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