5 Ways Telemedicine is Transforming Healthcare
A closer look at how telemedicine enhances patient care without increasing costs

Healthcare innovation is occurring rapidly. Advanced treatments and patient services are helping healthcare organizations serve patients faster with improved outcomes. This is critical in today’s environment as the industry faces increasing pressures related to new regulations, an aging population and physician shortages in critical specialties.

Telemedicine is considered one of the top advancements in the push to address these challenges.

Take a closer look at some of the key ways telemedicine can help healthcare organizations deliver high-quality, cost-effective services to patients.

1. Telemedicine Addresses Modern Healthcare Challenges

Healthcare executives must address several and sometimes conflicting challenges. For example, administrators must meet clinical guidelines aimed at establishing national standards of care while also meeting public demand for more affordable and accessible healthcare.

Other key challenges include:

More than three-quarters of hospitals will be affected by reduced reimbursement under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) in FY 2019.
The number of people age 65 and older is expected to reach 86 million in the U.S. by 2050.
The U.S. physician shortage is expected to reach 90,000 physicians by 2025, with the greatest shortages in surgical specialties.
The National Rural Health Association estimated that there are only 30 specialists for every 100,000 patients in rural parts the U.S.

Such pressures are forcing many hospitals, including a growing number of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), to close or reduce their services. Yet telemedicine provides options for delivering
high-quality care to a wide range of patients while adhering to industry standards.

2. Telemedicine Removes Barriers to Healthcare Accessibility

Telemedicine is a major step toward solving the accessibility challenge. Benefits from increased access via telemedicine include:

1. Coverage on demand

Smaller hospitals can contact a larger facility the moment a patient arrives in the emergency department to ask if a qualified specialist can respond via telemedicine. The ability to reach patients immediately in any location allows specialists to treat patients before their conditions worsen.

2. Coordinated care

Telemedicine also enables coordinated care for patients recovering at home or in post-acute care sites such as rehabilitation facilities or nursing homes. This promotes faster healing and reduces the need for patients to travel for follow-up. In addition, physicians can work in the hospital and city of their choice, which raises their job satisfaction and helps address hiring issues.

3. Reduced readmissions

Telemedicine enables more follow-up care without the cost of traveling to a patient. Follow-up care, even if not in person, can reduce 30-day readmission rates and lower the risk of fines under the CMS Hospital Readmissions Reductions Program.

3. Telemedicine Enriches Clinical Expertise and Decision-Making

Physicians enhance their expertise through both case volume and variety. That can be a challenge in smaller or more rural facilities, where physicians see fewer patients. A wide range of expertise is the basis of a health system’s success—including its ability to standardize treatment at a high level across facilities.

Telemedicine allows physicians to handle more cases than they would in person and perform evaluations much faster. This includes specialized treatment, such as:

Stroke Treatment

Telemedicine enables more experience assessing the appropriateness of prescribing tPA, an invaluable tool for effectively treating ischemic stroke patients; teleNeurologists simply see a higher volume of patients in a week than some of their peers see in several months.

Mental health evaluation

Nationwide, the average boarding time for psychiatric patients is eight to 34 hours. This delay causes undue stress on the patient and strains morale in the emergency department. It may also increase facility fees for the hospital and saddle the patient with a far larger bill. Telemedicine helps psychiatrists make admission and release decisions faster, including reversing involuntary commitments.

Acute telemedicine deploys physicians across a broader area, enabling them to increase their caseloads and build clinical muscle memory, which translates into better outcomes.

The latest stroke guidelines urge centers to achieve door-to-needle times under 60 minutes for administering the intravenous clot-busting drug, tPA, a highly effective early stroke treatment.

4. Telemedicine Enables Hospitals to Keep Patients Local

Telemedicine can enhance access and improve the quality of care in rural communities. Expanded telemedicine services are helping rural hospitals compete with larger, urban care centers. Rural organizations use telemedicine services to enhance patient-centered care and population health.

More than 120 rural hospitals have shut down since 2005, and nearly 700 rural hospitals across 42 states are vulnerable to closure. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) predicts this trend will accelerate, and that those most affected will be some of the nation’s most vulnerable: poor, minority and elderly patients with chronic health conditions.

Acute telemedicine also makes it possible for smaller and larger hospitals to adopt transfer agreements to further enhance expertise. For example, a larger hospital can agree to provide access to their neurologists for stroke patients.

Patients who are transferred to the larger hospital for additional treatment benefit from improved care, including being more likely to be treated by the same doctor they first saw on screen in the emergency department. The larger hospital receives a high-value patient, and both facilities reinforce their qualifications for Primary Stroke Certification, which brings more patients through their doors.

5. Telemedicine Enables Smarter Healthcare Administration

Healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries. This increasingly complex environment creates workflow challenges, including:

Incorporating electronic health records (EHRs) into workflows while adhering to strict data security and privacy requirements.
Managing new billing models as hospitals move from fee-for-service to value-based care.
Meeting and exceeding a national standard of care across specialties.

60% of Millennials support the use of telehealth to replace in-office visits.

Telemedicine can help alleviate many of these issues, but administrators may be concerned about a heavy up-front technology investment and the ability to scale. In addition, hospital staff may be reluctant to add more technology to their workflows. Telemedicine-as-a-platform addresses many of these concerns and has several advantages over a solution built from scratch, including:

Organizations can deploy telemedicine-as-a-platform across many care sites rapidly.
Telemedicine-as-a-platform can help organizations generate analytics to predict supply and demand, to integrate scheduling with existing workflows and EHR systems, and to provide performance measurement on individual clinicians.
Users can access telemedicine platforms from common, modern technology, such as tablets and video carts.

Building a telemedicine program from scratch requires a significant outlay of capital, resources and time. Hospitals can take advantage of telemedicine-as-a-platform to provide enterprise-level infrastructure with tested controls, proven workflows, 24/7 support and continuous improvement and upgrades. In addition, a good telemedicine provider can align their services and technology with existing workflows and offer the benefit of their own operational, clinical and technical expertise.

Learn more about the benefits of telemedicine and how it’s revolutionizing the way medical professionals deliver care and manage costs.

To read more about how telemedicine is transforming healthcare, downloadThe Intelligent Guide to Acute Telemedicine.