Telemedicine Statistics That Will get the Attention of Your Practice
Telemedicine enables providers to extend their reach, and improve their efficiency and effectiveness, while still maintaining high quality care and attention to patient safety. While it’s been around for longer than you may think, telemedicine is impacting today’s healthcare scene more than ever before. On October 11th, 2016, Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest integrated health systems in the United States, announced that 52% of the California-based health system’s patient visits occurred through online portals, virtual visits or the health system’s apps. That number speaks for approximately 59 million of their 110 million encounters in 2015. This announcement serves as the first time a large health system has reported more virtual encounters than in-person encounters. Impressive.
Not only does this indicate a major turnaround for the way we deliver and receive healthcare, but evidence shows it may actually become the preferred method of care – especially for those patients located in remote areas where access to timely healthcare can be a challenge. In a recent study by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, they specifically wanted to understand the satisfaction level of all telehealth users, including the providers, based on the idea that for telemedicine to be truly effective, it also must be beneficial to those who provide care.
The survey featured three questionnaires, designed for patients, physicians and on-site coordinators involved with the Missouri Telehealth Network, which serves 29 clinical specialties at 202 sites around the state. Here are some of the more notable statistics:
- 86% of physicians said they were satisfied with the quality of care provided
- 83% of patients felt they’d received quality care
- 78% said they’d use the platform again.
- Approximately 2/3 of on-site coordinators stated the system was easy to set up.
Researchers involved in the study stated that it both confirmed and validated the use of telehealth for rural patients.
In a separate study performed by the Richard A. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, they found that the veteran population would also benefit from using a telehealth platform. It’s no secret that traveling to and from the nearest VA hospital can create an incredible hardship for veterans. In their 2014 study that spanned over 2 years, they found, again, that it was beneficial to both the provider and the patient. In fact, the center’s telemedicine platform saved the hospital more than $330,000 in reimbursements by cutting more than 770,000 travel miles by veterans. Even more incredible was the fact that the overall satisfaction rate was at 96% for the veterans.
With such overwhelming data, many providers have looked into adding a telehealth platform to their practices. However there are a few things you need to consider before taking the dive.
Consider Geographic Location:
Some concern has been expressed over regulatory and licensure requirements. At this point in time, providers must follow federal, state and local regulatory and licensure requirements related to the scope of their practice. Additionally, providers must ensure that the patient is physically located in a jurisdiction in which the provider is duly licensed and credentialed. Finally, providers must practice within the scope of their licensure and observe all applicable state and federal legal and regulatory requirements. This could present a problem for providers who are located in an area that is near state lines and have patients who visit their office but live in a different state. Presently, the patient must be located in the state in which the physician or provider is licensed. If they are at home, in a state where you are not credentialed, you cannot provide a telehealth consultation to them.
Consider Patient Education, Consent and Documentation:
Once you’ve researched your state’s requirements, you’ll need to initiate the telehealth encounter with the patient. This not only requires notifying and educating the patient with regards to a variety of measures related to telemedicine that include setting the appropriate expectations regarding the telemedicine encounter, including prescription policies, communication, follow-up, etc. Most states also require written consent. The consent form you would use varies by state but should contain information such as the patient name and medical record number. It will affirm that the patient understands you are going to engage in a telemedicine consultation and that the provider has explained the process and technology necessary to complete such a consultation. It will also affirm that the patient understands risks associated with technology and security. Additionally, the form should put forth that the patient has received alternatives to the telemedicine consultation and is choosing to participate in the telemedicine consultation. It will affirm that the patient has received an explanation of who has access to this record for the purposes of billing, etc., and that they’ve had the opportunity to ask questions if they have any. So that covers the education and consent but then you must consider the documentation. You will absolutely need to document a telehealth visit with the same detail you document an in-person encounter. In some cases, you may need to provide better documentation to explain rationale, etc. The bare minimum will include the identifying information, source of history, chief complaints, history of present illness, associated signs and symptoms, past medical history, family history, and all the other usual pieces of information.
There are also some ethical considerations to be made when it comes to adding telehealth to your practice. Though you are technically practicing at a distance, you are still required to provide the same attention and adherence to professional ethical principles as you would at an in-person encounter. Basically, you are expected to uphold the same code of ethics, continue to abide by all federal, state and jurisdictional laws and regulations and institutional policies. Additionally, you are expected to not use telemedicine as a way to provide preferential treatment. In other words, don’t avoid certain patients by only offering telemedicine consultations to them based on their location, economic status, disease or disability, gender or sexual orientation, behavioral factors, ethnicity, religion, etc. The only exception would be in the case of pandemics.
While there are a lot of considerations and steps to implementing a telehealth platform into your practice, the statistics described above make it more than obvious that it could contribute to increased efficiency, increased patient engagement and even an increase in overall patient satisfaction. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for an announcement from iSALUS Healthcare relating to telehealth before the end of the year!