For part 3 of our mini-series, we’re going to discuss some of key benefits of telehealth. As most of you aware, the current COVID-19 pandemic has put an overwhelming strain on healthcare facilities, physicians and medical staff. The benefits of telehealth extend beyond physicians and medical staff. Patients and families as well as insurance providers can also benefit from this technology. Let’s explore some of these benefits.
Top benefits for patients and families:
When a patient needs to discuss their test results and/or post-operative care with a physician, a videoconference can effectively replace an in-person visit. For example, if a patient is having an allergic reaction (i.e. a rash), the method of store and forward can replace an office visit.
Second, if a patient needs to manage a chronic condition like diabetes, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) can replace routine office visits. In addition, when there’s more frequent contact with a physician, there’s less fragmentation of care that occurs in the event a patient forgets to take their medication. As a result, patients have greater engagement and ownership of their health.
In situations like the above, telehealth is the most effective and efficient means of care delivery. When a patient interacts with their care team remotely using telehealth, they avoid the unnecessary travel saving time and money. And, for patients in rural areas, easy access to their healthcare providers improves their overall experience and satisfaction with the healthcare system as whole.
Top benefits for healthcare facilities
Telehealth can provide tremendous benefits for healthcare facilities. Let’s explore a few.
As mentioned above, when patients are more engaged with their healthcare team remotely, they can receive the quality care they need from the comfort of their own home without having to travel. As a result, “no shows” are reduced which improves the overall efficiency of healthcare resources and medical staff.
Second, when RPM and remote consultations are used to help patients manage and monitor certain health conditions, readmissions are also reduced. For example, when patients can effectively manage their health at home with the after-care instructions they receive from their physician, patient engagement is improved allowing for a reduction in readmissions.
Third, transfers to out-of-network facilities can result in loss of revenue. With telehealth, remote consultations with specialists can safely determine whether a patient needs to be moved to another facility. Therefore, hospitals lose fewer patients which translates to less revenue to out of network transfers.
Last, overall healthcare costs are reduced since online visits are typically less expensive than urgent care and ER. When physical visits are replaced with virtual visits, healthcare facilities save money and improve their bottom line.
Top benefits for insurance companies:
In one study, the cost of a patients’ options is applied to the projected incidence of those options. Without the telehealth option, the average cost for alternative sites of care is approximately $176. Now, compare that with the typical $50 cost of a telehealth visit, the result is a savings of $126 per patient encounter for the insurance company.
By reducing costs, insurance companies can enable patients to experience greater access, efficiency, and overall satisfaction with their healthcare providers and the healthcare system as a whole. And, when insurance companies cover the cost of telehealth services, they make it possible for patients to experience the multitude of benefits that telehealth can offer.
However, it’s important to note that not all insurance companies cover telehealth services, and those that do, only cover a select few. Therefore, it’s imperative that the patient understands what their insurance company covers.
In conclusion, by enabling more efficient use of healthcare’s physical resources, telehealth has the potential to help the healthcare industry use its human resources more efficiently. Telehealth can help address the shortages of primary care and specialty providers by helping them work more efficiently allowing them to treat more patients in less time at a lower cost. The net result is this: more people have access to the right care at the right time and the right place with the right provider.