As a progressive new form of quality and convenient health, telehealth practices are growing, especially in rural areas, as it improves quality, access and cost of care. However, with a reimbursement model not clearly defined, some physicians are still reluctant.
In essence, telemedicine enables health providers to monitor patients who are not at their location. With telecommunication devices in their home, results can be transmitted to their provider for analysis and treatment. Through transmission of medical data, remote monitoring, and interactive services, telemedicine is helping physicians take high quality care of their patients.
Surprisingly, there were more hospitals and physician offices that were embracing telemedicine than I previously thought. According to Hospitals and Health Networks Most Wired 2011 survey, 27% of physician offices and 42% of hospitals indicated they provided telemedicine services.
Telemedicine offers an array of benefits for hospitals and physician offices.
Increasing Care in Rural Areas: A big draw of telemedicine is its impact on rural areas where access to care isn't always easy to find. In this setting, telehealth services can save patients driving long distances and wait times they would normally find at a hospital or physician offices.
Continual Care via Telemonitoring: It is beneficial to specialty patients who need increased monitoring and care. Through telemedicine devices in patients' homes, medical providers can assess blood pressure, heart rate, weight, blood sugar levels and more to ensure the continual safety of their patients.
Increasing Cost Savings: Not only as a way to help control escalating healthcare costs, but patients save money driving, and on cost of time waiting, and hospitals and physician clinics save by not paying for postage by using email and text messaging.
Reimbursement Model: In general, private insurance, employers, Medicaid and Medicare all reimburse some form of telemedicine, however, more advanced forms of telemonitoring reimbursement is limited.
With each state issuing its own set of guidelines for telehealth coverage, California is leading the way when it passed the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011 in October. The bill allows for increased telehealth services in rural areas through more providers and in more settings.
Providing patients convenient, quality care is an utmost concern for health systems, hospitals and physician clinics across the country, and telemedicine is a dynamic and innovative method to consider.