The Growth of Telemedicine
Once considered a niche service, telemedicine is now widely accepted by health organizations as a key component of their acute care services.
According to Foley & Lardner LLP’s 2017 Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey,about three quarters (76%) of healthcare executives said they offer or plan to offer telemedicine services. About 53% said their programs were growing or expanding.
In an increasingly value-based care environment, healthcare executives face enormous pressure to improve patient care quality and control costs across departments. Telemedicine offers a way to achieve both.
of healthcare executives said they offer or plan to offer telemedicine services.
The Role of Telemedicine in Value-based Care
As healthcare organizations shift to value-based care, they’re even more focused on improving quality and controlling costs. Medicare, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and health insurers reimburse providers based on everything from patient outcomes to infection prevention. They may also financially penalize healthcare organizations for exceeding certain patient readmissions quotas.
Telemedicine promises to reduce readmission rates by helping providers and patients connect over video for follow-up care. One of the most common factors affecting potentially preventable readmissions is a patient’s inability to keep appointments after discharge, according to a 2016 study.
On a personal level, more frequent interactions help establish a strong patient-physician bond. This improves patient satisfaction and engagement — key components of successful value-based care.
One of the most common factors affecting potentially preventable readmissions is a patient’s inability to keep appointments after discharge.
Do You Need an Enterprise-wide Telemedicine Program?
Although telemedicine can play a key role in care delivery, it takes extensive planning to make it work across the continuum of care. As you consider adding or expanding a telemedicine program, ask the following:
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, your telemedicine program has a significant chance of success. Read on to discover the benefits telemedicine may bring.
Expand Acute Care Reach and Services
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) anticipates the U.S. will face a shortfall of up to 90,000 physicians and specialists by 2025.
However, with telemedicine, healthcare organizations can engage specialist resources to diagnose patients from anywhere. For example, more than half of U.S. counties have no psychiatrists, according to a 2016 Health Affairs report. By using telePsychiatrists, one North Carolina hospital saw a 65% decrease in the number of mental health patients who spent more than 24 hours in the ED, thereby improving throughput.
U.S. will face a shortfall of up to 90,000 physicians and specialists by 2025
65% decrease in the number of mental health patients who spent more than 24 hours in the ED
Reduce Stroke Care DTN Times
Hospitals participating in the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines® program commit to improving door-to-needle (DTN) times for stroke patients.
To treat patients as quickly as possible, hospitals need immediate access to specialists. Hospitals can pay local top-tier specialists to work on-call (and pay the price), or they can use evidence-based practices and engage neurologists by telemedicine.
UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport, Pa., made a 35% improvement in the number of patients who received Alteplase (tPA) within 60 minutes by using teleNeurologists, thereby reducing DTN time.
Improve ED Throughput for Mental Health Patients
Inside an ED, 1 in 8 patients has a mental health or substance abuse issue. These patients wait three times longer to be seen than other patients.
There is a shortage of psychiatrists in the U.S., and demand is expected to outstrip supply by 25% by 2025.
With telemedicine, a psychiatrist can make determinations on medically cleared patients, assess threats of self harm, and reverse involuntary commitments, freeing up ED beds for acute patients.
Retain More Complex Patients
When EDs are able to admit more complex patients, it expands local care options and keeps the sickest patients in their communities close to loved ones. Telemedicine allows hospitals to leverage teleICU physicians who can help ED staff make these important decisions.
In addition, many intensive care unit (ICU) patients are not moved out of the unit in a timely manner. This lengthens their stay and may cause other complications because of hospital- acquired infections or poor ventilator management. Oversight by a teleICU intensivist can improve outcomes and help hospitals meet Leapfrog patient safety goals.
Improve Patient Care and Clinical Outcomes
With telemedicine, patients receive a level of care they may not otherwise get. They can engage with specialists based in a big-city hospital without miles of travel. Patients and their families appreciate the ability to communicate with specialists from their local hospital or clinic, rather than make a long drive to visit in person.
A March 2017 report from the University of California, Davis found that telehealth access saved patients about $157 in travel costs and 278 travel miles annually.
In an acute care setting, patients interact directly with specialists via telemedicine. Rather than hearing information second-hand from the ER doctor, the patient can speak directly with the neurologist or intensivist making the diagnosis.
What to Do Next
As society becomes more reliant on technology, consumers expect features such as online patient portals, mobile apps and telemedicine. They expect to communicate with doctors via email or video, and they don’t want to wait days or weeks for an appointment. And in acute care settings, reduced wait times can mean the difference between life and death.
To meet patient expectations, hospitals and healthcare organizations are readily implementing or expanding telemedicine programs. If your facility is one of them, know that you don’t have to start from scratch.
To grow systematically, and cost-effectively, work with an outside partner with the technology and clinician resources to help you establish an enterprise-wide telemedicine program. By partnering with an expert telemedicine provider, you’ll ensure clinical, operational and financial success.
Learn how SOC Telemed can help you build your own acute care telemedicine program.