There has always been value in being able to reach healthcare consumers remotely, however, the fee-for-service model and health plans have not supported it. Rising expenses, increasing number of Accountable Care Organizations, elevated interest in consumer engagement, focus on population health management and a shortage of healthcare providers are all driving telehealth. Andrew Watson, MD predicts that 85% of healthcare delivery will occur in the home in the next five to six years.1 Telehealth provides convenience to an increasingly busy healthcare consumer and expands access to care while reducing costs. Healthcare Providers need to be including telehealth in their plans or they will miss out on a big opportunity to attract and retain healthcare consumers. Here are four reasons telehealth will transform healthcare:
An Increasing Need for On Demand Care – In years past on-demand care meant dropping into a retail or walk-in clinic to get checked out or to get a prescription. Today, on-demand care means online, from the comfort of your home, even in your pajamas if you wish. More and more people are preferring to email their provider questions or video chat rather than stopping into a near by clinic.
Healthcare reform has provided insurance to more than 40,000 individuals who do not have a formal source of care, making them prime candidates to use telehealth. Additionally, there continues to be a growing need for primary care physicians, in fact it is estimated by 2020 there will be a shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians.1 Telehealth provides a great opportunity to expand primary care capacity, tackle the physician shortage and provide convenient and affordable care.
Healthcare Consumers Driving Their Care – Healthcare consumers are becoming more savvy with their healthcare in terms of leveraging their resources and directing their own care based on personal judgement. They are more accountable for their care and taking responsibility for their preventative care plans. Telehealth may just be the solution to meet the needs of the new healthcare consumer who is seeking convenience and ease as they juggle their busy lives.
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Regulatory Barriers Being Addressed – The regulatory environment continues to change to help knock down barriers that have stood in the way of telehealth in the past. Reimbursement eligibility for telehealth services is expanding geographically and new laws are ensuring that certain virtual visits are reimbursed the same way in-person visits are. In addition to government mandates, professional groups are focusing on setting guidelines for evidence-based telemedicine and insurers are partnering directly with telehealth vendors to provide virtual care.
An Emphasis on Customer Experience & Continuum of Care – Healthcare consumers are frustrated with the increased time they spend in the waiting room and the lack of time spent with the healthcare provider. With an emphasis being placed on customer experience healthcare providers are expanding their hours to accommodate for the demand, however, this is not sustainable. Telehealth also provides a channel for delivering healthcare that can bridge the gap and provide care across the entire continuum leading to better outcomes and an overall improved customer experience.
Telehealth engages healthcare consumers, provides valuable insights for population health management and offers an option that addresses rising healthcare costs and healthcare provider shortages. The time for telehealth is now and providers must leverage it to transform their business models, improve care management and tackle rising healthcare costs.
Look for telehealth to have an enormous impact on healthcare in 2015. Both healthcare providers and health plans need to start embracing telehealth. Check out 10 Trends Impacting Healthcare in 2015