While widespread research on the effects of telemedicine is still relatively young, many studies do show positive results. When the Veterans Health Administration implemented telemedicine for past heart attack patients, they sawhospital readmissions due to heart failure drop by 51%. Another study on the Geisinger Health Plan showed that telemedicine reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by as much as 44%. And while telemedicine skeptics often claim virtual visits tend to be lower quality than in-person visits, a recent study of 8,000 patients who used telemedicine recorded no difference in care outcomes between in-person and virtual care.
With telemedicine, a medical practice or hospital system can immediately expand access to niche medical specialists. This makes it easy for primary care doctors to consult medical specialists on a patient case, and for patients to see a needed specialist on a rare form of cancer, no matter their location. As another example, small hospitals without adequate radiology specialist on-staff can outsource evaluation of x-rays via telemedicine.
Online medical care might not be the doctors and nurses of your parents’ time, but it is a huge advancement that will help care for your parents’ future. Geriatric care is greatly impacted by the mobility of older patients and using technology-based doctor appointments is a much-needed solution. So, is this new-fangled approach to healthcare here to stay? It sure looks that way!
How much and which telemedicine services private payers pay for again can vary widely by state. While the trend is toward broader coverage of telemedicine services for plan enrollees, private payers are still deciding on exactly what they will cover and what they won’t. 29 states and Washington, DC have passed telemedicine parity laws, which mandate that private payers in those states pay for telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person visits.
Type of telehealth. Medicare primarily only reimburses for live telemedicine, where the physician and patient are interacting in real-time through secure, videochat. This type of telemedicine visit is meant to substitute a face-to-face in-person visit. The only exception is in Hawaii and Alaska, where Medicare reimburses for store-and-forward telemedicine as well.
Doctor on Demand is a telemedicine service that gives you access to medical doctors 24/7/365 for the treatment of common and worrisome ailments such as urinary tract infections, skin and eye issues, and minor sports injuries. These problems can sometimes lead to trips to the emergency room simply because you cannot get to your doctor in a timely manner. With this service, you register, request a doctor and meet one quickly via your computer or smart device.
Doctor On Demand operates subject to state laws. As of August 2017, Doctor On Demand offers behavioral healthcare in all states where Mental Health services are available to Doctor On Demand’s patient population at large, and Medical care in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Doctor On Demand is not intended to replace an annual, in-person visit with a primary care physician.** Doctor On Demand physicians do not prescribe Controlled Substances, and may elect not to treat or prescribe other medications based on what is clinically appropriate.
^ Parikh, Mili; Grosch, Maria C; Graham, Lara L; Hynan, Linda S; Weiner, Myron; Shore, James H; Cullum, C. Munro (2013). "Consumer Acceptability of Brief Videoconference-based Neuropsychological Assessment in Older Individuals with and without Cognitive Impairment". The Clinical Neuropsychologist. 27 (5): 808–17. doi:10.1080/13854046.2013.791723. PMC 3692573. PMID 23607729.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s the early foundations of wireless communication were laid down. Radios provided an easier and near instantaneous form of communication. The use of radio to deliver healthcare became accepted for remote areas. The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia is an example of the early adoption of radios in telehealth.
Because of telemedicine, patients who previously had limited access to health care services can now see a physician without leaving their home. Seniors who would prefer to age in place can now do so with the use of medical streaming devices. The spread of disease is reduced as individuals with contagious diseases don’t have to expose it to others in crowded waiting rooms.
Telenursing refers to the use of telecommunications and information technology in order to provide nursing services in health care whenever a large physical distance exists between patient and nurse, or between any number of nurses. As a field it is part of telehealth, and has many points of contacts with other medical and non-medical applications, such as telediagnosis, teleconsultation, telemonitoring, etc.
There’s a lot to be optimistic about in the future of telemedicine. With rapid advances in technology, it’s likely that telemedicine will only become easier and more widely accepted in the coming years. Already, smart glasses (like Google Glass) and smart watches (like the Apple Watch) can monitor patients’ health data and transmit them in real time to health professionals. Programs like clmtrackr can analyze a person’s emotional state based on their facial expressions and could be used to monitor mental wellness. Digital health startups like Augmedix, are experimenting with automatically transcribing documentation during a patient visit. Advances in robotic surgeries allow surgeons to operate on patients from afar.
The study of 15 of the state’s hospitals using the platform to treat some 500,000 patients saw a 25 percent reduction in a hospital’s staffing costs, while the hospitals saw a 20 percent increase in admissions – patients who would have been transferred to UMMC for ultimately non-serious issues, depriving the local hospital of revenues and taxing UMMC’s resources.
Reimbursement for Medicaid covered services, including those with telemedicine applications, must satisfy federal requirements of efficiency, economy and quality of care. States are encouraged to use the flexibility inherent in federal law to create innovative payment methodologies for services that incorporate telemedicine technology. For example, states may reimburse the physician or other licensed practitioner at the distant site and reimburse a facility fee to the originating site. States can also reimburse any additional costs such as technical support, transmission charges, and equipment. These add-on costs can be incorporated into the fee-for-service rates or separately reimbursed as an administrative cost by the state. If they are separately billed and reimbursed, the costs must be linked to a covered Medicaid service.
Before setting up a telemedicine practice, an organizations administration and providers should know how laws differ when using telemedicine solutions. They should also consult with an expert to determine what equipment they need, and have a basic understanding of why they want to offer this in the first place. In addition, if it’s an existing practice, they should get buy-in as some physicians are not ready to make the transition.
Although this is more difficult to prove, big payers like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna are benefiting from telemedicine too. Patients with substance abuse disorders who are treated using various telemedicine strategies provide cost-savings for payers. The cost per treatment is cheaper overall and offers cost savings across the board. As technology continues to improve, the cost savings will become more visible.
^ Wadsworth, Hannah E; Galusha-Glasscock, Jeanine M; Womack, Kyle B; Quiceno, Mary; Weiner, Myron F; Hynan, Linda S; Shore, Jay; Cullum, C. Munro (2016). "Remote Neuropsychological Assessment in Rural American Indians with and without Cognitive Impairment". Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. 31 (5): 420. doi:10.1093/arclin/acw030. PMID 27246957.
However, for a while, adopting and investing in telehealth services had been too high, and the distribution of telehealth resolutions and hospital-based networks proved to be too costly. But now, due to technological improvement, improved broadband services are now powerful and easily affordable which makes the level of return on investment in telehealth higher than ever before. Across almost all medical specialties, telehealth services can be applied in connecting providers with different patients in different locations via real-time audio and video. In other cases, service centers can use telemedicine to collect remotely as well as send data to a central monitoring system for interpretation.
The U.S. spends over $2.9 trillion on healthcare every year, more than any other developed nation. On top of that, an estimated $200 billion of those costs are avoidable, unnecessary spending. Telemedicine has the power to cut our healthcare spending by reducing problems like medication non-adherence and unnecessary ER visits, and making typical doctor visits more efficient.
Policies and regulations in the telemedicine arena can be confusing for providers, vendors, and payers. Organizations interested in implementing telemedicine should be familiar with the laws in their state. For example, some states require informed consent from patients, while others do not. Some payers may not pay the same rate for telemedicine services as they do for in-person services. Practices should identify how providers will be paid, as some organizations seek grant funding.
There certainly has been a lot of excitement around how novel digital technology can change the patient-provider relationship. A recent survey found that 64% of patients are willing to have video visits with their physicians, and the telehealth industry is expected to expand 10-fold by 2018. Apps like Doctor on Demand could play a major role in bringing telehealth mainstream; notably, Richard Branson (the man behind the Virgin Group empire), has recently invested in Doctors On Demand. The biggest benefits of virtual health apps are in lowering costs and saving time, particularly for those who cannot access care nearby. In a disease like diabetes, where blood glucose data can be analyzed remotely, there certainly is a lot of potential for technology to improve care. For more information on the role of virtual health in diabetes, check out our conference pearls from AADE 2014. –AJW/KC/AB
The range and use of telehealth services have expanded over the past decades, along with the role of technology in improving and coordinating care. Traditional models of telehealth involve care delivered to a patient at an originating (or spoke) site from a specialist working at a distant (or hub) site. A telehealth network consists of a series of originating sites receiving services from a collaborating distant site.
Sometimes the answer to the question “What is telemedicine?” is simply mobile medicine. It doesn’t require a heavy desktop computer or a lot of equipment. Activities that used to happen only in person are now easy to do on a smartphone. Modern consumers are accustomed to downloading apps and using their smartphones for simple transactions. The same is true for doctor visits. For example, with MDLIVE the patient simply opens the app and clicks to choose a doctor, with whom they can speak either by phone, instant message, or video.
Remote patient monitoring, which is sometimes called self-monitoring or self-testing, is a means of monitoring patient health and clinical information at a distance. It helps to simplify patient compliance with testing and it lowers the cost of frequent monitoring. It is frequently used in the treatment and management of chronic illnesses like asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
The downsides of telemedicine include the cost of telecommunication and data management equipment and of technical training for medical personnel who will employ it. Virtual medical treatment also entails potentially decreased human interaction between medical professionals and patients, an increased risk of error when medical services are delivered in the absence of a registered professional, and an increased risk that protected health information may be compromised through electronic storage and transmission. There is also a concern that telemedicine may actually decrease time efficiency due to the difficulties of assessing and treating patients through virtual interactions; for example, it has been estimated that a teledermatology consultation can take up to thirty minutes, whereas fifteen minutes is typical for a traditional consultation. Additionally, potentially poor quality of transmitted records, such as images or patient progress reports, and decreased access to relevant clinical information are quality assurance risks that can compromise the quality and continuity of patient care for the reporting doctor. Other obstacles to the implementation of telemedicine include unclear legal regulation for some telemedical practices and difficulty claiming reimbursement from insurers or government programs in some fields.
Teleradiology – Teleradiology is actually one of the earliest fields of telemedicine, beginning in the 1960s. Teleradiology solutions were developed to expand access to diagnosticians of x-rays. Smaller hospitals around the U.S. may not always have a radiologist on staff, or may not have access to one around the clock. That means patients coming into the ER, especially during off-hours, will have to wait for diagnosis. Teleradiology solutions now offer providers at one location to send a patient’s x-rays and records securely to a qualified radiologist at another location, and get a quick consult on the patient’s condition.
Telehealth and Patient Engagement: With telehealth technologies, patients are taking more control of their well-being. Educational videos, health management apps for mobile devices, and online health learning and support communities empower patients to manage chronic conditions, lose weight, increase physical activity levels, and gain emotional support. Diabetes patients are benefiting from carbohydrate tracking apps and are using glucose monitoring devices to document and report their blood sugar measurements. Other patients are interacting with their providers and scheduling appointments through secure online communication portals. Additionally, they are accessing health education content via smartphones and computers to add to their self-care toolboxes. They are also using wearables and monitoring systems to gain knowledge about their sleep patterns, vital signs, and activity levels.
“Telepsychiatry, a subset of telemedicine, can involve providing a range of services including psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management,” American Psychiatry Association. Telepsychiatry has several advantages over traditional psychiatry including reduced stigma, reduced time off work, and better access to mental health specialty care that might not otherwise be available. Companies like Iris Health, Genoa Health, InSight, and MDLive are already delivering telepsychiatry platforms across the US.
Do you have a doctor who makes house calls? In the middle of the night and on holidays? Or one that comes to your office when you’re stuck working on a project? No? Well, you do now. With Medical City Virtual Care, you can access a trusted healthcare provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year from any mobile device or computer … from anywhere in Texas … no appointment necessary. Right this way: Your online doctor will see you now.