‘By 2018, telemedicine is estimated to be used by 8 million patients.’
According to a report by IHS Technology. Physicians who have started offering telemedicine in their practices say there is no need to reinvent the wheel or spend a fortune to jump in on a trend that will certainly improve patient health and practitioners’ life. For physicians and other healthcare providers, now may be the time to consider whether to add telemedicine to your repertoire of services.
In the past, telemedicine involved connecting with a medical professional over the phone for a brief consultation and freely. Today, in a world filled with computers and smartphones, these consultations increasingly involve video conferencing technology that allows for face-to-face communication.
This type of care is more commonly provided by companies that contract with doctors. Generally, these companies work under a model in which a patient makes an initial call requesting a consultation. In some cases, they may complete an online evaluation outlining their concern and medical history. Then, the company has a physician call back within a specified period of time. All practitioners need is the right computer equipment and private place to connect with patients.
Why Dr. Howard switched to telemedicine
Timothy Howard, a family physician from the USA began providing virtual consultations 8 years ago. He has been practicing telemedicine ever since.
Prior to switching to telemedicine full-time, Dr. Howard says changes in health care like the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) meant he was cutting his patient workload at his private practice by 25%. Now, instead of focusing on what “buttons to punch in the office” EHR, and hiring staff “to haggle with insurance companies,” Howard says telemedicine keeps him focused on the patient “It’s revolutionised my ability to care for patients. In some senses, it has brought me closer to patient care”
The three A’s reasons
First, it’s accessibility. One of the things we find all over nations issues with geographical accessibility to physicians. Patients just can’t get to them when something comes up. These are non-emergency issues.
Second, they may be accessible, but they’re not available. Their schedule is full especially in the middle of cold and flu season and physicians’ offices are also crowded.
The third part of the A is affordability. Patients go to ER with non-emergency issues, they go out of ERs and walk-in clinics with a hefty bill.“Industries and the insurance companies appreciate what we do.
When I started, we were 4,000 members nationwide. We’re at eight million now and we’ll be much higher than that” says Dr. Howard.
Value for both patients and clinicians
Telemedicine or telehealth can have benefits for both patients and physicians. Telemedicine attracts patients because it does not require a time-consuming trip to the doctor’s office, works well with their schedule, and tends to be more affordable. Consumers are clearly interested in more convenient access to healthcare. Furthermore, they are even willing to switch providers to get internet video service. Not only that, but consumers are willing to try telehealth for many needs from chronic conditions to post-discharge follow up, according to a report published in American Well’s 2017 Consumer Telehealth.
Telemedicine can also make financial sense for some doctors, Howard observes. Dr. Howard has no overhead costs and receives $40 dollars per consultation. During flu season, he sees over 40 patients a day. Overall, he says that is “as good as a private practice,” in terms of compensation.
Most sessions last fewer than 10 minutes. When he is on call and a patient requests a consultation, Howard receives a notification by text or email.
“If we really want to keep medicine excellent as far as quality we give patients, [telemedicine] has got to become mainstream,” he says
(Perna, Healthcare Informatics, 1/22).