Due to its digital nature it is often assumed that telehealth saves the health system money. However, the evidence to support this is varied. When conducting economic evaluations of telehealth services, the individuals evaulating them need to be aware of potential outcomes and extraclinical benefits of the telehealth service. Economic viability relies on the funding model within the country being examined (public vs private), the consumers willingness-to-pay, and the expected remuneration by the clinicians or commercial entities providing the services (examples of research on these topics from teledermoscopy in Australia ).
As with many other aspects of modern life, new technologies have had profound impacts on the healthcare delivery system in the US. Modern healthcare customers think nothing of booking an appointment, requesting a prescription refill, or looking at test results online. Many of us count our steps, keep track of what we eat, and monitor our heart rate from a smart device. These days, healthcare and technology go hand in hand.
^ Arora, Sanjeev; Thornton, Karla; Murata, Glen; Deming, Paulina; Kalishman, Summers; Dion, Denise; Parish, Brooke; Burke, Thomas; Pak, Wesley; Dunkelberg, Jeffrey; Kistin, Martin; Brown, John; Jenkusky, Steven; Komaromy, Miriam; Qualls, Clifford (2011). "Outcomes of Treatment for Hepatitis C Virus Infection by Primary Care Providers". New England Journal of Medicine. 364 (23): 2199–207. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1009370. PMC 3820419. PMID 21631316.
“Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery,” says the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP). CCHP further classify telehealth into four types of services, live-video conferencing, mobile health, remote patient monitoring, and store-and-forward. Most telehealth platforms provide one or more of these services, to a niche patient or consumer segment.
Telemedicine reimbursement is a difficult topic, especially with the constantly changing state policies. Many states now have parity laws which require private payers to reimburse for telemedicine visits the same way as in-person visits. The best way to navigate reimbursement is to call up your top payers and ask their policies. You can also check out our guide to telemedicine reimbursement and this helpful matrix from ATA on state policy.
While many branches of medicine have wanted to fully embrace telehealth for a long time, there are certain risks and barriers which bar the full amalgamation of telehealth into best practice. For a start, it is dubious as to whether a practitioner can fully leave the "hands-on" experience behind. Although it is predicted that telehealth will replace many consultations and other health interactions, it cannot yet fully replace a physical examination, this is particularly so in diagnostics, rehabilitation or mental health.
Telehealth allows the patient to be monitored between physician office visits which can improve patient health. Telehealth also allows patients to access expertise which is not available in their local area. This remote patient monitoring ability enables patients to stay at home longer and helps avoid unnecessary hospital time. In the long-term, this could potentially result in less burdening of the healthcare system and consumption of resources.
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