Telehealth is a term for administrating healthcare services through the means of telecommunication and technology-oriented resources, and digital devices, to better assist the success and implementation of virtual healthcare.
The adoption of telehealth services has felt both sudden and overdue. As mentioned in a previous blog, 41% of employers offered telehealth benefits in 2016 but 86% did so in 2019. That was pre-pandemic, it is now July 2020. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) reports that the global 2021 market for telemedicine is expected to reach $66B.
Telehealth’s evolving infrastructure, dependence on innovation and the many associated risks perhaps tempered the expectations of would-be telehealth providers and consumers. A recent benefitnews.com article reports that before the coronavirus hit, 3.2% of the US workforce was working remote or had worked from home – whereas of April, the number was suddenly an astounding 62%. Covid19 incentivized the adoption of telecommunication and introduced a clear and present demand for an immediate alternative to onsite health care.
Multifaceted Value of Telehealth
Telehealth has given patients and their doctors an ability to remain virtually connected thus reducing the risk of catastrophic and expensive health events associated with delayed care. In this way and others telehealth is inadvertently shaping how the healthcare landscape operates. According to an AHRQ Evidence Report, “fewer heart attack patients died when consultations based on transmitted data were provided to EMS personnel in the field or during transport.” These are real world examples of how telehealth’s dynamic innovation and practical accessibility will help the service outlast the Covid19 pandemic.
Beyond the current mandate, telehealth should continue to be more heavily utilized regardless of the return of onsite health care. With support from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services CMS and other Plans, along with the FCC’s $802.74M contribution to the Rural Health Care Program for telecommunications and broadband services, telehealth use is not only rising – it’s here to stay.
True Value of Telehealth
The value of telehealth is both objectively and subjectively relative to a plethora of unique and defining circumstances, goals, and expectations. Opportunity to capitalize on telehealth is multifaceted too. An employer can potentially save a net-cost estimated at $19-$121 per telehealth visit, according to fshealth.com. While on the other hand, CMS recently investigated fraudulent telehealth charges, like providers billing for “more visits than are humanly possible in a day.” Variables such as quality of physician and clinical staff, devices and technical applications, limits to bandwidth, the high influx of Covid19 cases and even fraudulent activity all convolute any attempt of cost benefit analysis. Analysis done in earnest to assess the true value of telehealth should be unilateral.
The Key Findings summarized in the whitepaper, Designing The Consumer-Centered Telehealth & eVisit Experience provide us with nine telehealth findings to consider:
- There cannot be friction for the user.
- Team-based care must include smart triggers.
- Real world and online world must converge.
- We must be sensitive to data overload.
- Consumers are the hubs of their own healthcare data.
- Converge data for interactions to be safe and meaningful.
- Expand role for care team based on new data triggers.
- Integrate technology and human interaction in the physical world.
- Increase focus on patient data security.
Ultimately, the true value of telehealth will be determined by providers and users of the service.
Click here to find out how Poindexter unlocks telehealth potential with the power of health data. Telehealth Use & Value Part 2 coming soon.