If you haven’t already heard the telehealth buzz, you will be soon. In fact, telehealth is erupting onto the healthcare scene in such a way that the opportunity for easier access to medical care can be found in places like the doctor’s office, urgent care centers, and even the school clinic.
For instance, one small school system in Elwood, Indiana, a population of only 8,514, decided to become the first in the state to implement a school-based telehealth clinic. Heather Gordon is currently the school nurse for the Elwood Community School Corporation and sees anywhere from 60-80 students per day on average.
Gordon told Fox59 News that, “It’s going to cut down the time that they’re out of school.” You can read more about what Gordon and the School System’s Superintendent, Chris Daughtry had to say about their new telehealth program, how it works, and the positive effect they think it will bring to both parents and children alike by reading the original story here: Fox 59’s Lindy Thackston Explains How the Telehealth Clinic Works at Elwood Community Schools.
In addition to adding telehealth clinics to school systems, they’ve been added to urgent care centers. Consider this, what if you didn’t have to take time off of work to visit the doctor? What if you could simply sit at your desk and use your computer? Additionally, what if you really are too sick to drive? Forget about getting showered and dressed, keep on your PJs and go online. In Brevard County, Florida, the Health First Urgent Care Center has implemented their Telehealth System to accommodate a list of conditions such as:
4. Cold and Flu
7. Ear Infection
9. Pink Eye
10. Insect Bites
11. Joint Aches
14. Sinus Infections
15. Sore Throat
16. Urinary Tract Infection
Dr. Michael Shapiro, Medical Director for Health First Now Urgent Care, tells Space Coast Daily, “It’s like a clinic in the Cloud. Sometimes patients may find that it is extremely difficult to get in to see the doctor. They may be busy at work, busy with kids, have transportation problems, or are traveling out of town. It’s another extension of urgent care.”
Shapiro goes on to share that the number of telehealth encounters is expected to grow from 350,000 in 2013 to approximately seven million by 2018. You can learn more about the Health First Now Telehealth program and how it works here by ready the complete article here: Telehealth Harnesses the Power of Technology.
In another scenario, telehealth moves beyond the local family practice and school system into the world of our nation’s armed servicemen and women who are covered under the TriCare program. Unfortunately, one version of the TriCare bill sanctions the originating location for telehealth be the physician’s location while other versions designate the patient’s location as the point of origin. The American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP) has warned that the Senate version of the bill, S.2943, “portends a troubling scenario under which state licensing boards will lack the authority to discipline physicians who are practicing medicine within that state’s borders.” They went on to suggest that this type of language could risk undermining the existing system of medical licensure under which each state governs the practice of medicine within its borders.
The biggest concern is if a provider is located in Indiana but the patient is located in Tennessee, which state controls the licensure, the payment, etc., of the encounter? You can learn more about concerns and the potential impact of the new defense bill in an article by Eric Wicklund titled, “Letter, TRICARE Bill Could ‘Federalize’ Telehealth Doctors.”
In similar circumstances as providing easier access to care to our military, Reliance Standard, a leading group insurance carrier specializing in employee benefits solutions for companies of all sizes, has partnered with WellVia to offer telehealth services to employers in conjunction with ancillary (non-medical) benefits insurance coverage.
In a press release published on September 7th, 2016, Reliance Standard shared that, “According to National Business Group on Health report, as many as nine out of 10 large employers offer or plan to offer telehealth services to employees.” You can find the full press release here: Reliance Standard Partners with WellVia to Offer Telehealth Services.
As you can see, telehealth is bursting into the healthcare scene in all shapes and sizes. Though some guidance is still needed on how to make this type of care available to patients across state lines, if the full potential of telehealth is realized, by the year 2020 we could potentially see an enormous switchover from in-person healthcare to digital healthcare where doctors are providing care not only to patients in other states but quite possibly those in other countries.