TELEHEALTH CAN BRING DOCTORS CLOSER TO PATIENTS

Physicians expressing concerns about losing their patients to telehealth, will find solace in recent evidence which suggests telehealth is simply an extension of their existing relationship, rather than a replacement for them as the primary provider.

Jan Oldenburg, a healthcare IT consultant, and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, founder of THINK-Health, a healthcare consultancy, shared multiple examples of how telehealth is creating a better connection between provider and patient in their recent presentation at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.

Oldenburg and Sarasohn-Kahn, made a strong case for telehealth while also acknowledging skepticism about the value of telehealth in patient care. Sarasohn-Kahn said consumers in a high-deductible, value-based world are most cost-conscience than ever before. “[If the] average family budget in America is a $5 bill, a dollar of that $5 is spent on healthcare. If you don’t think healthcare costs is a kitchen-table issue for the average family in America, you don’t understand this is a reality,” she said.

Sarahohn-Kahn argues that telehealth simply makes economic sense. She continues that telemedicine and video, e-mail, remote monitoring, and more can each provide additional value to patients. A Health Affairs study identified that exchanging e-mails improved quality at Kaiser Permanente. In terms of remote monitoring, provider organizations are successfully using various technologies to manage patients with asthma, COPD, and heart disease. “The evidence is growing for all of these [technologies] in the telehealth toolkit,” she said.

Jan Oldenburg provided examples to attendees focusing on physicians who were using telehealth to enable new models of treatment while ultimately bringing them closer to patients. Oldenburg shared examples of physicians able to retain patients via telehealth when they have moved across the country. “[The psychiatrist's] patients didn’t want to lose her…she kept her [original] practice, her patients were happy they didn’t have to switch providers, they kept their relationship, [she] continued to get reimbursed…It’s a great example of a new model of care,” Oldenburg said.

Oldenburg provided additional examples of physicians deploying remote health monitoring technology to manage a dual eligible patient population resulting in a significant reduction of ER visits and increased patient-provider relationships.

Barriers to wider adoption Sarahohn-Kahn and Oldenburg identified were cross-state licensing and reimbursement issues, but don’t believe these barriers are too challenging to overcome. “If we all work together and understanding the end goal — serving the patient at the point of care, making it easier for the docs to provide service in a clean way — these problems are solvable,” Oldenburg said.

Join us at the 2016 CTeL Executive Summit to hear more about how telehealth is changing to face of medicine. Hear from the experts and join the conversation to help us identify solutions to these barriers to help spread telehealth adoption across the country.

Click here for the full Health Affairs study on E-mails and Patient Care.

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