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.
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.
Telemedicine is a major step toward solving the accessibility challenge. Benefits from increased access via telemedicine include:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries. This increasingly complex environment creates workflow challenges, including:
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:
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.