Today’s competitive health care marketplace has created an environment where patients demand lower costs, higher service quality, and convenient access to services.  Telehealth is an innovative and valuable mechanism that provides patients with efficient access to quality services. Lowering costs and removing barriers to service access, are critical components in promoting patient wellness and population health. Convenience and cost-effectiveness are important commodities in the modern health care marketplace, as patients tend to avoid treatment that is difficult to access or too expensive. As a result, telehealth technology is emerging as a preferred choice among patients and providers. Telehealth has also attracted the attention of US legislators. They utilize this tool for improving the competitiveness of American health care services. This is especially important, seeing as health care represents 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In fact, the resource has helped to define the role that lawmakers play in ensuring that patients benefit in a competitive health care market.
Telehealth allows multiple, different disciplines to merge and deliver a much more uniform level of care using the efficiency and accessibility of everyday technology. As telehealth proliferates mainstream healthcare and challenges notions of traditional healthcare delivery, different populations are starting to experience better quality, access and personalised care in their lives.
Telehealth’s existence can be dated from the 1960’s with one of the earliest applications being the monitoring of the physiological parameters of astronauts. Over the years, thanks to technological advancement, there has been a number of technological and communications tools that have been implemented to enable the transfer of patient’s information for recommendations and consultations across almost every medical environment and specialty. Telehealth services have also been able to provide remote monitoring of the patient, consumer health communication and information and medical education for providers. Typically, delivery techniques include: networked programs that link tertiary medical centers to outlying centers and clinics in rural areas, home phone-video connections, point-to-point connection to hospitals and clinics, web-based e-health service pages and home monitoring links.
“The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
Several physicians and patients are finding it difficult to adapt to telemedicine, especially older adults. Physicians are very concerned about patient mismanagement. While advances in medicine have made it more efficient to use technology, there are times when system outages occur. There is also the potential for error as technology cannot always capture what the human touch can.
HIT is the generation and transmission of digital health data, often through an electronic health record. Generally, HIT is used for administrative functions (keeping track of patient's health history, sharing information between providers, etc.) while telemedicine is the delivery of an actual clinical service. HIT can facilitate telemedicine but it is not a requirement for delivering remote health care.
States may submit a coverage SPA to better describe the telemedicine services they choose to cover, such as which providers/practitioners are; where it is provided; how it is provided, etc. In this case, and in order to avoid unnecessary SPA submissions, it is recommended that a brief description of the framework of telemedicine be placed in an introductory section of the State Plan and then a reference made to telemedicine coverage in the applicable benefit sections of the State Plan. For example, in the physician section it might say that dermatology services can be delivered via telemedicine provided all state requirements related to telemedicine as described in the state plan are otherwise met.
While telemedicine is the older of the two phrases, telehealth is rapidly gaining acceptance, in large part because of the evolution of the healthcare landscape. The rise of consumer-directed healthcare and the shift from fee-based care to quality- and outcomes-based care has put more of an emphasis on health and wellness and care management. And in that atmosphere, telehealth fits the mold.
But investors had other worries that weren't related to the broader market. Teladoc Health CFO and COO Mark Hirschhorn sold more than $700,000 of his stock right after the company's third-quarter earnings update. A short-seller posted an online article predicting that sales for one of Teladoc's fastest-growing businesses would soon fall. These two stories hit on the same day. As you might imagine, Teladoc stock tanked in response.
Projections for the growth of the telehealth market are optimistic, and much of this optimism is predicated upon the increasing demand for remote medical care. According to a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers say they would use telehealth. At present, several major companies along with a bevvy of startups are working to develop a leading presence in the field.
I'm a former scientist, using words and an audio recorder as my new research tools to untangle the health and food issues that matter most to consumers. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I cook as much as possible. You can find me in the grocery aisle scrutinizing the fine print of every food item I put into my cart. Follow me on Twitter @juliacalderone.