10 Jul Telehealth – The New Norm
COVID-19 has taken the stage front and center and doesn’t seem to be leaving the stage soon. This devastating virus has crippled economies, halted travel and changed all aspects of what we as a society deem to be a normal functioning world. COVID-19 has overwhelmed our current healthcare system and is challenging our traditional way of delivering care to those who need it. This circumstance presents an opportunity for growth in another type of delivery of care, Telehealth. There are many ways to deliver care through Telehealth and in this article we will focus on several types. We will also dive into key benefits and how this care delivery model supports the quadruple aim.
Types of Telehealth
Two-Way Live Video Conferencing
The most common is two way live video conferencing. The physician and the patient communicate to one another at two different locations through video conferencing. During the video conference the provider may view an area of concern such as a skin lesion or have a question-and-answer session to assess the patient’s health concern. This is one of the most popular types of Telehealth, especially with rural communities at a disadvantage with commuting or access. This type of visit has also shown to allow the patient a more personal interaction with the doctor.
Another form of Telehealth growing in popularity is mobile health. This type of Telehealth uses mobile devices such as phones or tablets to monitor a patient’s healthcare and vitals like blood sugar or nutritious intake for the day. Physicians can use the information from the mobile devices or apps to evaluate a patient’s health and plan the correct course of action that would be most beneficial to the patient.
Remote monitoring is another form of Telehealth especially popular with the elderly population. This is used to prevent any adverse dilemmas such as falling or incorrect medication diagnosis via remote monitoring. Remote monitoring allows healthcare providers to gather a patient’s health data from one location’s data bank and use the information to monitor a patient’s well-being and make decisions that promote the individuals continued care for the better, while eliminating as many health risks as possible.
One more form of Telehealth is asynchronous video documentation. Asynchronous is an electronic delivery system where a patient or physician collects all relevant health data such as a patient’s medical history, pathology, imagery and diagnostic tests, and sends the information to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment. This type of Telehealth is best used in areas where specialists are not easily accessible.
Benefits of Telehealth
The utilization of Telehealth as a care management vehicle reduces risk of contracting COVID-19 by eliminating personal contact with patients who may carry the disease in the waiting room. Because of the current pandemic, the need for Telehealth will only continue to become a prevalent option for those seeking convenient and reliable care. Telehealth will also continue to become a more popular option with the younger population who are more integrated with the virtual setting.
Another benefit of Telehealth is the potential to decrease the total cost of care. The reduction in costs are experienced because Telehealth improves access to care. Improved access could decrease unnecessary readmissions, increase compliance with care management, and potentially decrease redundant treatments that drive costs up. Patients may also experience more efficient and shorter appointments, which will improve satisfaction and continue to drive costs down. Also, it may improve patient satisfaction as telehealth creates less time in waiting rooms and traveling to clinical settings decreasing ‘non value-add’ time.
Telehealth is a viable care delivery method and has proven critical in managing COVID-19. Telehealth takes it a step further by addressing each of the quadruple aims of healthcare: patient satisfaction, high quality, low cost, and provider satisfaction. Telehealth enhances the patient experience (satisfaction) and increases quality of care by allowing patients more access to healthcare through mobile devices and allows patients to communicate with the physician in the comfort of their home. In terms of total cost of care, the improved access available through this care delivery model can increase participation in well visits, potentially assist in care transitions decreasing readmission and more. Telehealth may have a positive impact provider satisfaction due to the network of enhanced resources at the providers disposal through video conferencing. In managing care during the pandemic, Telehealth became one of the only viable means to manage patient care which ultimately drives revenue and provided an avenue to continue to operate while in person interaction was not possible. Without this model, we may have seen many more practices close their doors which of course has a ripple effect on the health of communities served.
Life after COVID-19
COVID-19 has forced everyone to acclimate more towards a virtual setting for business and medical care. The pandemic has provided us a way to appreciate how efficient and cost effective Telehealth can be as a means to care for populations when other options are not possible. As our society continues to move and adjust towards a virtual setting, Telehealth will likely continue to become a dominant care delivery model with lots of benefits for all involved.
Jack Leonard is a consultant for Prosper Beyond and a senior at Appalachian State University in
Boone, North Carolina. He is a Healthcare Management major.