Telehealth is frequently in the media – whether you are watching the news, reading journals or attending events, telehealth is driving change in healthcare. Telehealth involves the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. It allows long-distance patient/clinician contact and care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions. In other words, it enables patients to use a secure app to have a medical encounter with a provider through video.
Telehealth (TH) has been shown to broaden access to healthcare, increase efficiency while reducing costs, and enhance patient satisfaction and health outcomes. Given its rapid expansion, there is an emerging need for trained professionals who will effectively deliver TH services.
Types of Telemedicine:
- Ongoing urgent care
A big consideration for Telehealth is hardware. Hardware is a necessity in order to offer telemedicine services – computer, internet access, microphone, software. Other things to consider for setting up a TH program:
- Patient facing mobile app/website
- HD video integration
- VOIP integration
- EMR/EHR integration for patient continuity (Electronic Medical Records/Electronics Hospital Records
- Discharge Instructions
- Medical record storage
- Security and HIPAA compliance
- Communication encryption
Some of the major drawbacks in telemedicine include lack of reimbursement, patient and provider buy-in, internet access, set standards, and education in the field. States require physicians to be licensed in the patient’s state, which increases the cost. Even though Medicare currently only covers telemedicine services in rural areas, the Connect Bill (S2485) is seeking to bridge that gap. As more institutions and companies offer the service, more patients and providers are learning about it.
Emergency departments nationwide have already benefited in the form of teleradiology and tele-stroke consultations. With increased access to on-demand telemedicine visits from their homes, the hope is that patients are less likely to need to visit the ED. One company cites that almost 20% of its visits would have been in an ED without their service. Many telemedicine companies are recruiting emergency medicine trained physicians to provide services because they are equipped to make quick decisions with limited information. Future options for EM applications of telemedicine include tele-triage and remote second opinions in trauma.
The field of telemedicine is blossoming in the age of rapid technological innovation. It is branching into electronic medical record development, digital health, wearable technology, and mobile applications. One of the biggest hurdles is acceptance by the medical community and general population. It will be interesting to see where telemedicine fits into our current healthcare paradigm in the near future. Gottlieb‘s holistic approach to revenue cycle management includes our focus and advocacy issues impacting emergency medicine and hospitalist practices across the United States. Telehealth is one area we are watching closely and will continue to provide updates as they may impact the industry.