Extending and Enhancing Care with Telemedicine
You don't have to trade quality for convenience
As technology continues to push the world into an increasingly digital space, the health-care industry is evolving with the times. In a moment when consumers are getting much of their information on demand, they are also expecting more convenience from their health-care providers.
Imagine struggling to determine what’s wrong as you’re laid up in bed, shivering, sick as a dog. When you’re this ill, researching your symptoms is enough of a challenge — forget getting up and heading to your doctor’s office.
Unfortunately, countless diseases and illnesses go untreated when access to care is cumbersome, expensive, inaccessible or inconvenient.
Enter telemedicine as an extension of your care. It offers the ability to remotely connect with your doctor via video or text, sometimes for diagnosis and a full treatment plan.
Telemedicine isn’t a text line or 1-800 number to someone you’ve never met for simple advice. Telemedicine allows you to quickly and securely message and video chat with your doctor, who knows you, your health history and your care plan, based on previous in-person office visits — even if after office hours.
Driven by faster internet connections, smartphone ubiquity and ever-altering insurance standards, more health providers are turning to technology to assist with their jobs. Telemedicine holds immense potential for today’s everything-on-demand consumers. Consider how often you use Google or WebMD because you don’t want to incur a medical expense. The use of this technology is growing rapidly — the Wall Street Journal reports 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely in 2015 — due to the numerous benefits offered to patients and doctors alike.
WHAT PATIENTS WANT
In today’s health-care world, convenience is key. When a patient is out of town or stuck in bed, too ill for an office visit, telemedicine offers convenient access to health care providers when and where needed. According to a Cisco global survey, 74 percent of patients prefer easy access to health-care services over in-person interactions with providers. Other consumers of telemedicine include patients who live in remote locations or who can’t take off the time from work needed to see their provider.
BETTER ACCESS TO CARE
Telemedicine not only improves access for patients, but also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach beyond their own offices. Given the doctor shortages throughout the world — both in rural and urban areas — telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase health-care service to millions of new patients. Take a patient who has a stroke and is brought to a small community hospital without a neurologist on staff. With quick response crucial in stroke care, telemedicine allows skilled specialists to be available to walk through the steps and treatment necessary to minimize effects of the stroke. Removing the barrier to access will allow more patients to improve both their health and care.
IMPROVED QUALITY OF CARE
Critics feel patients may be trading quality for convenience when it comes to telemedicine, when compared to an in-person doctor’s office visit. It’s true that an in-person visit is usually preferred, however studies have invariably exhibited that the quality of care services delivered via telemedicine are as good as those given in traditional in-person visits. Medical issues can be quickly addressed through real-time consultations within minutes. A timely diagnosis and the early treatment of a patient often results in improved outcomes and fewer expenses. Telemedicine also increases patient engagement by helping patients maintain checkup appointments and care schedules.
PATIENT COST EFFICIENCIES
Often, people unnecessarily go to the emergency room or urgent care when they can’t get an appointment with their doctor — because their provider doesn’t have any immediate openings, or the clinic is closed for the day — bringing with it unexpected costly co-pays and expensive bills. In fact, according to statistics from the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America, nearly 75 percent of all doctor, urgent care and ER visits are either unnecessary or could be handled safely and effectively over the phone or video. In direct primary care settings, the use of telemedicine is an extension of your provider’s care. A quick call or video chat with your provider may be all it takes to take care of your illness after hours.
Through improved disease management, fewer urgent care and emergency room visits, reduced travel times and improved health professional staffing, the efficiency of the entire health care system increases when telemedicine technologies are an option.
Today, patients are afforded improved access to their health-care providers due to the emergence of HIPAA-compliant telemedicine applications and secure messaging solutions. By connecting patients with their own providers who can assess and treat them quickly and effectively, health-care providers that offer telemedicine services are diverting patients from emergency rooms and urgent care facilities.
PeakMed, for example, recently partnered with CirrusMD to bring HIPAA-compliant communication technology to the PeakMed family. This service allows members to ask questions and get the treatment they need from a provider they trust, including prescriptions as appropriate, via text, image sharing, video or phone, all without having to come into a LifeCenter.
By meeting patients where they are, with a familiar text messaging experience, CirrusMD and PeakMed will be able to treat patients virtually and guide them to the most appropriate point-of-care for their situation, saving both time and money.
Bill Garden is the chief financial officer of PeakMed, a company providing direct primary care, family-practice medicine that uses an affordable, monthly-membership model that without ever billing insurance. PeakMed serves individuals and companies in Colorado Springs and the south Denver metro area.