Telemedicine in “Complex Cases”: A Good Fit

A new piece from Modern Healthcare aptly illustrates what many advocates have known for a long time: Even in the most complicated medical situations, quality telemedicine can provide patients with the expert, lifesaving health care that they need.

Highlighting the case of Ron Cobbley, a rural Utah man found to have been suffering from a staph infection, and who remotely received care from an infectious disease specialist located in a different hospital, the article also serves as a useful reminder (particularly in the wake of a RAND study, which found increased costs associated with direct-to-consumer telehealth utilization, that CTeL and others highlighted last week) that telemedicine can go far beyond “on-demand” virtual visits for patients seeking to skip a trip to the doctor’s office for a cough or a rash. With providers at the hub and spoke sites working together, and with the assistance of peripheral diagnostic tools, patients like Cobbley, as illustrated, can receive specialty care at a distance when they need it most.

Companies that specialize in providing direct-to-consumer telehealth services, Foley & Lardner telemedicine lawyer Nathaniel Lacktman noted to Modern Healthcare, “have done a good job of expanding access to low-acuity care” through on-demand visits and other such services. Yet in his view, “health systems are well-positioned to use technology to care for ‘the sickest of the sick’ who account for the greatest share of health care spending.” Along with emergency cases like Cobbley’s, this includes patients with costly chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, who require frequent provider attention.

To that end, providers across the country in urban and rural communities alike, Modern Healthcare notes, are seeking to better leverage technology to meet patient needs–beyond on-demand visits. In the case of Missouri’s Mercy Health Virtual Care Center, this includes at-home follow-up remote monitoring for at-risk patients and in-hospital video monitoring for symptoms of sepsis in patients. Both programs have seen positive results, per Virtual Care Center President Randy Moore.

While, of course, highly varied state laws regarding reimbursement often stand in the way of broader implementation, some health systems are choosing to embrace these new technologies regardless, ultimately projecting future cost savings. Said New York-Presbyterian Chief Information Officer Daniel Barchi, “It’s more about creating the infrastructure so we can do this well.”

Click here for the article from Modern Healthcare on telemedicine. 

 

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