TeleHealth: A New Frontier in Medical Care

Booking a doctor’s appointment is already challenging enough; waiting for the doctor to see you on your appointed date is a test of patience. Each year, the number of medical doctors are increasing as new graduates join the force. However, with the rapidly increasing population, there are still not enough doctors to accommodate patients in a sooner time. This growing concern has been addressed with the help of technology, as TeleHealth or TeleMedicine services are now being offered by many medical providers.

Every year, the use of TeleHealth is growing by 18.4% ramping to a $17.8 billion industry. From 350,000 patients taking advantage of TeleHealth services in 2013; now, there is already an average of 50 million Americans that are using the services. With the onset of the corona virus in the early 2020, the demand for TeleHealth services has increased by 62% for this year, as shelter-in-place and physical distancing are implemented in most states in the country.



Growth Trend Graph from OrthoLive.com

In a study conducted by the University of Central Florida (2016), 74% of patients prefer the new TeleHealth services because of four main reasons: (a) convenience, (b) efficiency, (c) cost-effectiveness, and (d) better care services.

Convenience

Telehealth services allow patients to stay at home and still get in touch with their doctors for consultation. eVisit, a telehealth company in Arizona, shared that with telehealth services “unnecessary admissions and readmissions are reduced with the help of remote consultations and monitoring, allowing patients to manage health conditions more effectively at home; and, remote specialists can often determine if a patient absolutely needs to be moved to another facility or if they can stay where they are, allowing them to stay close to their personal support network” (eVisit, 2014). This system has also given the doctors to work from home.

Telehealth has also provided a good venue for new business easier for models making it much easier for patients and doctors to connect. An article in mHealthIntelligence says, “Specialists are now finding that they can launch their own telehealth platform to consumers, offering their services online much like a banker, real estate agent or other business person.”

Telehealth services surely provides comfort to both patients and doctors.

Efficiency

Telehealth saves a lot of time for both patients and doctors. And, because plenty of time was saved, more and more doctors can accommodate more patients. The travel time and waiting time to see a doctor are reduced; now, there is an average of 600 minutes or 10 hours of work time per year that is saved.



A Comparison of Time Spent (per patient) Between Traditional On-Site Consultation versus TeleMedical Consultation (Ortholive,com)

TeleHealth services also allows telehealth providers to store data and files of patients; hence, it is easier to access patients’ records for fast triage procedures and prioritizing. Doctors can also manage their time well and may extend their hours to accommodate more patients. The National Rural Health Association reported that “In the U.S., for every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available. These patients endure 3 longer appointment commutes and have trouble accessing lifesaving consultations for specific diseases or chronic care plans”. With TeleHealth, the specialists can expand their reach to patients in remote areas.

Cost-effectiveness

According to Oregon Health and Science University, ‘our patients saved $6.4 million annually in travel costs by implementing a telemedicine program.” Of course, if one will just compute the accumulated costs of travel, parking, childcare, and taking time off from work, many patients might find it too costly to see a doctor. Dr. Emmanuel Mantilla of the University of Kansas Medical Center, explained that without the option of virtual visits, more than 70% of their patients in the remote areas may skip treatment because of the effort, time, and cost of travel. Some patients needed to travel more than 8 hours just to visit their facility.

TeleHealth visits also cuts the operational costs of medical facilities and hospitals. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said, “typically, the average cost of an emergency room visit is $1,734 and the average cost of an on-site doctor’s office visit is $146. Conversely, a telehealth visit is only $79 on average.” This allows them to save about $86.64 every time an online visit replaces an onsite visit.

Physicians also save time and money from the travels to and from the clinics and medical centers.

Better Care Services

With the pandemic affecting communities, TeleHealth provides a much better care services for many patients. They have the opportunity to receive treatment without the risk of exposure to the corona virus.

TeleHealth also provides patients the unnecessary transport to a healthcare facility; yet, still receive treatment from their doctors with the assistance of their primary caregivers.

Patient’s satisfaction is one of the many barometers to know if the quality of care is better. “A patient survey from the nationwide chain of CVS Minute Clinics reported up to a 99% satisfaction score with their telehealth visit; and, these results have been mirrored in clinical facilities from the Cleveland Clinic, the VA, children’s hospitals, and more.” Moreover, OthoLive.com, a telehealth provider, said that 87% of their patients using their telehealth application scored them high and will use the application again.

Even doctors, share their experience on a better quality of life with the advent of TeleHealth technology. Dr. Glency Corominas of Sutter Health Clinics said that with TeleHealth she was able to find more time for her family after work.

“From patients to doctors, the benefits of telehealth are far-reaching and only increasing in scope” (eVisit, 2014).