• Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare?

    Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare?

    From its inception in the 20th century, telemedicine has been used to provide clinical healthcare from a distance. It has been used to improve remote access to healthcare and medical services that would not be readily available in rural communities. Telemedicine has also been used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations. Mint Physician Staffing, a reputable locum tenens agency, dissects whether or not telemedicine is the future of healthcare below.

    Though telemedicine has its roots in the 20th century through older telecommunication and information technologies, it has rapidly become an incredibly fast-growing sector of the modern healthcare landscape with no sign of slowing down. Our collective exponential advancement in the field of technology has supplemented the growing adoption and increasing capabilities of telemedicine as a viable means of providing more comprehensive care to patients. The earlier forms of telemedicine that were achieved with telephones and radio call-ins have been supplanted by videotelephony (think FaceTime or Skype at the most basic levels), advanced diagnostic methods, and other telemedical devices that facilitate in-home care.

     

    Similar or Better

    With so much promise of access to healthcare for more people around the United States, why is there so much reticence to adopt this model to offset costs to payers and patients alike?

    Well, the answer is: it’s complicated. Many people simply don’t believe that it’s possible to receive the same level of care when the doctor who you might have known for years is talking to you via FaceTime.

    The first steps in countering that mindset and establishing that healthcare delivered remotely can be equal or better than face-to-face interactions will be crucial in determining if we can make healthcare affordable and convenient through more widespread adoption of digital health technologies.

    According to Cochrane, using interactive telemedicine led to similar or better outcomes as face-to-face visits in the majority of 93 randomized controlled trials out of a total sample size of 22,047. Cochrane is an organization dedicated to performing clinical evidence-based healthcare research with 11,000 members, and over 35,000 supporters worldwide.

    So, what’s the takeaway here? Remote evaluation by teleconferencing or any other means of telehealth provision seems to be as effective as face-to-face care. This includes all instances provided by a physician in all manners of medical cases, ranging from cardiovascular disease to patients recovering after solid organ transplantation. If studies are to be believed, patient satisfaction is sufficiently high. However, this is not a cause for celebration due to generational inertia to adopt new technologies. This generational divide will have to be addressed in order to move telemedicine and telehealth toward its full potential with a rapidly aging population and a dearth of qualified physicians to provide comprehensive care for patients of all ages.

     

    Patient and Payer Passivity

    While some patients, major service providers, and investors have embraced telemedicine as a means of providing healthcare, others in the field have been notably slow to consider telemedicine as a viable option due to patient resistance, as mentioned above.

    However, even considering patient resistance, another barrier to the widespread adoption of telemedicine has been the third-party payers. Insurance companies have adopted a wait-and-see approach if not full-on resistance to the utilization of telemedicine. With a majority of U.S. states enacting telemedicine parity laws, some payers and health experts have begun to wring their hands over the potential that using telemedicine might actually encourage more utilization of healthcare resources, as opposed to less. These parity laws will require insurance companies to pay for care provided by a telemedicine provider that would usually be provided if a patient were to visit the office in person.

     

    What’s Next?

    With so many hurdles to overcome, how could there be a path forward for telemedicine companies, doctors, and patients who need care? The answer lies in a study sponsored by Humana (a major insurance company) and undertaken by a telemedicine company.

    Our locum tenens agency reports the study found that with a sample size of nearly 5,500 encounters between 2016 and 2017, the patients seen by a telemedicine physician had about the same number of physician follow-ups and ER visits as patients who saw a physician in the office. Follow-up visits to urgent care clinics within the first two weeks of the initial encounter was higher in the telemedicine group. However, follow-up visits in the first two months were lower for the telemedicine group. Another notable figure was that physicians prescribed fewer antibiotics for their patients than those who saw their patients in person, though both numbers (36.1% for telemedicine & 40.1% for in-person) were probably inflated due to over-prescription. The most notable difference between the telemedicine and in-office groups was the amount that was paid out on average. Telemedicine costs $38. In-office costs about $114.

    The Bottom Line: Healthcare spending is out of control, and telemedicine seems to be the way forward. Telemedicine provides physicians with the ability to improve the quality of care, access to patients in rural settings, reduce admit and re-admit rates at facilities, and enhance the level of engagement, all while being more convenient for physicians and patients alike. Which is why the global market for telemedicine and its aligned technologies is seeing a compounding annual growth rate, meaning there is room and opportunity for growth.

     

    Mint Physician Staffing, a reputable locum tenens agency, has placed thousands of highly qualified physicians in telemedicine jobs, and much more. Contact Mint to get started in your locum tenens career today.

    Leave a reply →