Report: Telehealth cuts costs and boosts patient satisfaction
Thursday, October 05, 2017
When reciting facts and reporting the news, there's one thing that's for sure: Specificity is a great thing, and the more specific the better. So, we point to a new study today that leads us to a very specific point of fact.
New research shows that using telemedicine to treat pediatric sports injuries can save patients an average of $50 in travel costs and 51 minutes in wait and visit times, MobiHealthNews reports. It also saves providers $24 per patient.
The study, which was conducted by Nemours Children's Health System and presented last month at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, focused on adolescent and child patients, and the benefits of the technology were designed to gauge telehealth's benefits within the specialty of sports medicine.
Researchers looked at 120 patients ages 17 and under who had at least one virtual visit between September 2015 and August 2016. Besides shorter wait times, telehealth also boosted time spent with a physician — to 88 percent of visit time versus 15 percent for in-person visits.
Patient satisfaction was also terrific, with 98 percent of patients saying they'd consider future telehealth visits and 99 percent saying they'd recommend the option to others. Those are amazing stats from America's youngest generation. If that's not an indication of the popularity and the benefits of telehealth technology, nothing is.
As these individuals grow and become even more exposed to the technology as a possible point of care, we can certainly expect the technology to get better, become more comprehensive in its ability to serve patient needs, and continue to force payment reform.
It's safe to say that telehealth a generation from now will probably resemble the evolution of the personal computer — from monolithic devices that filled entire buildings to micro-sized devices that fit in a pair of our favorite jeans.
Interestingly, driven by continued rising costs of employee health benefits, more employees say they plan to access broader healthcare services, including telemedicine.
The Large Employers' 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey found virtually all employers (96 percent) will make telehealth services available in states where it is allowed next year (2018). More than half (56 percent) plan to offer telehealth for behavioral health services, more than double the percentage this year. Telehealth utilization is on the rise, with nearly 20 percent of employers experiencing employee utilization rates of 8 percent or higher.
In a separate report, millennials, too, are turning out to be proponents of telehealth services and mobile health applications. Millennials want easy access, lower cost and convenient healthcare services that fit their busy lifestyles.
"Healthcare providers are investing in telehealth services as a way to cost-effectively broaden the scope and geographic range of their services," according to Marlin Business Services. "Accounting firm KPMG found that about 25 percent of healthcare organizations have developed financially sustainable service models for telehealth and telemedicine (technology applications for virtual consultations between clinicians). Healthcare providers find these services improve efficiency, strengthen patient loyalty and enhance management of patient volumes by filling in gaps in medical specialties."
And several leading groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the HIMSS, say CMS can do more to remove payment restrictions through its Medicare expansion efforts.
So, pediatric sports medicine patients say the benefits of telehealth are unmistakable, and industry insiders finally seem to be catching on to support the efforts because they know one day soon that's where much of healthcare's money is going to be. The future of telehealth looks bright.
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