Telehealth services are growing rapidly as more providers offer them, driving more patients to use them. This year, more than seven million patients are expected to benefit from telehealth services this year, up from 350,000 just five years ago. In addition to increased implementations, telehealth services are evolving from diagnosis and treatment of minor acute illnesses to a broad range of services that patients are learning about.
Here are some of the innovative ways telehealth can help both providers and patients, beyond treatment of cold symptoms and minor scrapes.
Increased access to primary care providers or specialists – Telehealth services can increase time to care both primary care providers and specialists. Patient data, statistics, and medical images can all be shared across the platform and used in conjunction with live video to deliver additional diagnoses and care. This can be tremendously useful when PCPs work in multiple offices or getting consultations from specialists, allowing patients to get more effective care faster. It also allows rural patients to have easier access to their primary physicians.
Mental/behavioral health consultations – Mental and behavioral health is a growing issue. Online counseling and can be as effective as in-office visits, perhaps even more so. Patients have an added sense of privacy in their own homes, creating more open and honest conversations with therapists. Greater flexibility of scheduling and access to a broader pool of therapists reduce missed appointments and provide for more effective consultations.
Remote patient monitoring – Telehealth can be used to monitor various statistics and indicators, from heart rates to blood glucose to heart ECGs. Data can be collected remotely and sent to physicians or diagnostic facilities for analysis. Remote monitoring services can supplement or replace clinic visits and dependence on visiting home nurses and can help patients manage short-term or long-term conditions.
Prescriptions – Telehealth services can benefit both patients and physicians. Doctors are able to send e-prescriptions directly to your preferred pharmacy, saving time and improving accuracy over traditional paper of phone call alternatives. Accuracy of records is also improved, as prescription information can be instantly added to patient records. In addition, telehealth-enabled pharmacies can provide advice and counseling related to medications quickly and cost-effectively without patients having to physically go to the pharmacy.
Emergency care – ER staff have instant access to physicians and specialists to provide evaluations and consultations in real time. Improving both quality and speed of care in ERs saves costs, improves ER efficiency, and increases patient satisfaction by reducing re-admissions and follow-ups thanks to more accurate and rapid initial response.
Chronic care – Chronic care patients often require consultation and follow-up from a variety of different specialists. Telehealth can deliver integrated care either during in-office visits or at home, allowing collaboration between several different providers across locations. That could include primary physicians, behavioral or physical therapists, pharmacists, dieticians, nurses, and others. Telehealth reduces the number of visits to different locations by bringing all of these providers together across a telehealth platform.
ICU monitoring – Patients in intensive care require 24/7 monitoring. Tele-ICU systems can offer benefits in two ways. Real-time monitoring capabilities allow centralized remote observation across locations for increased efficiency, while instantly connecting on-site staff with ICU specialists across the telehealth network for collaboration and immediate response when needed.
Physical therapy – PT is a critical part of recovery from injury and many surgical procedures. Integrating telehealth into physical therapy practices accommodates patients’ schedules and can reduce the cost of follow-up visits. Telehealth PT programs allow therapists to evaluate progress and deliver guidance to patients who don’t have to leave their homes or offices, saving time and cost for both patients and therapists.
Medical interpreters – A diverse population means many patients seeking care are not fluent in English. Telehealth systems can provide remote access to medical interpreters in theoretically any language to help doctors more effectively communicate with patients, eliminating misunderstanding and ensuring proper care.
Education – Telehealth can be used to educate both patients and physicians. In addition to private consultations and advice, patients can participate in educational seminars and group sessions to learn about a variety of healthcare issues, from insurance issues to learning how to use telehealth services to their fullest. Telehealth networks can also use their systems to deliver continued education for their healthcare professionals, including training, specialty seminars, and other learning opportunities to increase awareness and skills.
Telehealth services will continue to grow and evolve, as physicians and healthcare networks continue understand the benefits and find new opportunities to leverage their solutions to deliver better care. Likewise, patients will quickly learn the convenience and quality of care through telehealth and will continue to demand new telehealth experiences. This is only the beginning.
To learn more about the possibilities of telehealth programs, click here.