Over the past few years, connected health solutions, like telehealth, have emerged as a viable opportunity to treat many of the issues facing the healthcare community, and the majority of patients who have used telehealth say their experiences were positive.

Overwhelmingly, physicians say they see the benefits of virtual care technologies, with improved patient access to care, improved patient satisfaction, and an ability to stay connected with patients and caregivers being the top benefits.  But, despite this, only 14% have the ability to conduct virtual consultations.  While some concerns may be may be understandable, others may be the result of not fully understanding how technology can drive healthcare forward.

In-person exams

There may be an initial concern that telehealth cannot provide the same level of care as in-person visits.  Telehealth is not intended to replace all interactions, but virtual visits can help determine whether in-person consultations are, in fact, needed or if treatment can effectively be handled otherwise.  Visual indicators, patient symptoms, and comprehensive electronic patient records can provide valuable information for physicians to treat many conditions remotely.  While specific laws vary by states, all states already allow physicians to establish relationships with new patients via telemedicine, making adoption and use of these services easier.  The side benefit is office time is then more readily available for those patients who do need in-person visits.  Let’s not forget that on-call doctors have long been providing consultative advice via phone to patients.

Compensation

Compensation and reimbursement have been concerns from the beginning of the connected health conversation.  However, strides are being made on both regards.  Thirty-nine states have adopted regulation to allow at least some telehealth-related services, and regulatory changes at the federal level continue to make it easier for physicians to record, report and get reimbursed for an increasing number of connected health services.  In addition, nearly all employers are making telehealth services available through their insurance plans (where allowable by state law).  Ultimately, the transparency gained by automatically generating records of each interaction can enable per-patient billing on a per-minute or per-interaction basis, potentially creating the potential for increased revenue.

Security and risk exposure

In addition to general security standards and protocols, healthcare providers and their vendors are required to comply with HIPAA regulations, providing a higher degree of security across data and applications to protect patient information.  Patients express high confidence in data security when it comes to their physicians, though that confidence drops significantly with other entities within the healthcare ecosystem.

With regard to risk exposure, one of the many benefits of integrated connected health solutions is the ability to record all transactions, which mean each communication, interaction, and service delivered is documented and recorded.  With that data, physicians can make informed treatment recommendations and potentially reduce errors due to communication errors.  In fact, physicians who have implemented at least one virtual care technology are less likely to voice concerns about medical errors than physicians who have not.  Of course, as we’ve already noted, not every patient case can be resolved through telemedicine, and physicians will have the ability to recommend that patients schedule an office visit to handle more difficult or complex concerns.

Patient acceptance

Already, 87% of consumers have used some form of digital health tool and, importantly, the majority were very happy with the results, particularly with video-based sessions.   Additional research shows that 77% of patients are open to the idea of virtual visits, specifically.  Consumers, in general, value their time above most other things, and connected healthcare can offer them the convenience of quality care while saving them the time it takes to get a scheduled appointment, to commute to doctors’ offices, and the time spent in waiting rooms.  In fact, long wait times are the single greatest source of frustration for patients.   The ability to reduce the time spent per visit with the added convenience of scheduling and flexibility of location is enough to make most patients want to try connected health options.

Change is often hard to initiate, especially when physicians have been following the same protocols and procedures for years or decades. Connected health services aren’t meant to replace all physician visits, but when considering the benefits and advances in both technology and regulation, there’s little to suggest physicians shouldn’t be offering connected health services.

To learn more about why telehealth should be on healthcare providers’ road maps, visit us here.

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