Digital technology has been redefining the way health care is delivered for years. Today, just about anyone with an internet connection can receive care using telehealth. Given the current state of our country’s health, it’s more important than ever to offer virtual care options for patients.
Telehealth offers many advantages for patients, as well as significant benefits for healthcare providers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is telehealth?
According to the Health Resources Services Administration, telehealth is defined as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technology (e.g. computers and mobile devices) to support a variety of healthcare services, including:
- Long-distance clinical health care
- Patient and professional health-related education
- Public health
- Health administration
While “telemedicine” often refers to clinical diagnosis and monitoring using video technology, “telehealth” is the more common name. “Telehealth” is also used in a broader sense to describe the comprehensive scope of methods for enhancing clinical care, education, and other health-related fields using technology.
The benefits of telehealth for healthcare providers
Today, patients experience many benefits from telehealth and telemedicine. During this unprecedented time of social distancing and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, video visits are a safe and convenient way for patients to stay connected to their primary care doctors and specialists without the risk of spreading germs in face-to-face interactions.
Clinicians and healthcare organizations also benefit from the opportunities created by telehealth. Learn more about the top 6 benefits of telehealth for healthcare providers below.
Telehealth benefit #1: Telehealth improves patient outcomes.
Managing patients with chronic conditions can be challenging because of the time required to monitor them. Telehealth can improve patient quality outcomes by enabling easier chronic health management through remote technology. This is especially true for patients who live in rural areas who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access quality specialists without significant travel to distant health facilities. It’s also particularly relevant now, as patients who may be at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 can minimize their exposure to the deadly virus while still receiving the care they need via technology.
Telehealth benefit #2: Telehealth cuts down on hospital readmissions.
Many patients make unnecessary (and high cost) trips to the emergency room or urgent care clinics to get the care they need, especially after an acute health issue. With heightened anxiety about COVID-19 symptoms, many people are seeking immediate care in-person, which increases their risk of exposure to something serious. In contrast, educating patients about follow-up care using technology can help reduce hospital readmissions (and costs). In addition to cost reduction associated with lower rates of readmission, written post-discharge instructions and ongoing communication using remote monitoring can help them better manage their condition away from healthcare facilities.
Telehealth benefit #3: Telehealth increases patient engagement and satisfaction.
Although COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there are many other health conditions for which patients need care. However, going to the doctor’s office may cause additional anxiety and increase risk of exposure to possible infection, especially for high risk patients such as the immunocompromised or those with preexisting conditions. That’s why telemedicine is a great option for patients to get the care they need and want from the comfort and safety of their homes.
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Modern patients choose physicians that make it convenient for them to stay healthy and seek care when and where they need it. Features like online booking and appointment reminder text messages are expected in a world where patients can arrange for food delivery or vacation reservations with the touch of a finger. And, shorter wait times inherently associated with telemedicine increases the likelihood that patients will be satisfied with their care.
Telehealth benefit #4: Telehealth improves access to health care.
Many providers struggle to improve patient access to care, whether due to resource constraints or that they serve difficult to reach populations, offering convenient care availability to patients can be a challenge for many. This is especially true in rural areas and now as hospitals and health systems are flooded with people concerned about COVID-19 symptoms. When patients do manage to get an appointment, they may spend a considerable amount of time in the waiting room, leading to significant dissatisfaction in your facilities.
Telehealthcare allows providers to expand access to care and services using nurse advice lines and call centers which can triage patients and determine when and where they need to seek care. When a physician’s appointment is required, telemedicine allows you to see additional patients without the barrier of travel time. This is especially helpful for those who may have minor COVID-19 symptoms and can be treated at home.
Telemedicine also extends access to patients who:
- Live in rural areas
- Live outside of your delivery system
- Need to be triaged
- Need to see specialists only available in certain locations
- Can’t otherwise travel to care
Since telemedicine technology can be used anywhere, at any time, it’s easier for you to offer extended evening or weekend hours without needing your staff to come into your facilities.
Telehealth benefit #5: Telehealth reduces patient no-show rates.
Many patients who miss appointments do so because they don’t have reliable means of transportation to get them to and from the doctor’s office. Transportation limitations especially impact older patients who may struggle with mobility challenges or disabilities that make traveling and access to care difficult.
The convenience of telemedicine removes the transportation barrier, allowing your patients to attend the appointment from wherever they are without needing to worry about travel time (and high costs). As a result, you can significantly reduce no show appointments, and improve efficiency, access, and costs of care.
Telehealth benefit #6: Telehealth cuts down on costs in health care.
Telemedicine allows for reduction in operating costs and increased efficiency in utilization of resources, while allowing flexibility in hours of operation to better meet the needs of your patient population. By delivering care using telemedicine, you don’t have the same overhead costs as you do when you’re seeing patients in-person. Some practices report saving as much as half of the cost of an on-site doctor’s office visit when a traditional onsite appointment is replaced with telemedicine. And right now, many healthcare organizations are offering discounted telemedicine services to help maintain social distancing when possible.
Ready to simplify virtual clinical care? If you’re a healthcare specialist or professional, we can help you safely and conveniently care for your patients virtually using HIPAA-compliant telehealth and telemedicine that integrates with your practice management and EMR systems.