Healthcare News & Insights

How hospitals are taking advantage of telehealth

Hospitals leaders who felt like telemedicine wasn’t a viable option for their facility might want to consider the idea again. 

459291901Telemedicine is one of the fastest growing sectors in health care, according to a recent iHealthbeat article, and more hospitals and health systems have begun to use telehealth services to supplement and improve care delivery.

Leveraging telehealth

The growing interest in telehealth largely comes from increased consumer demands for convenient, cost-effective alternatives to visiting providers and facilities. Recent research shows that consumers have increased expectations for affordable care and options for digital engagement. Telehealth gives providers a way to meet those expectations and improve patient experiences and satisfaction with the facility.

For example: The University of California-Los Angeles Health System recently implemented LiveHealthOnline, a consumer service that puts patients in contact with the Health System’s doctors via phones, computers or tablets. The program is meant to provide convenience for UCLA patients with minor ailments and little time to go to a doctor’s office.

Leveraging telehealth can also help hospitals’ bottom lines. New research suggests that there will be about 100 million e-visits by the end of the year, which could save providers about $5 billion.

This is good news since new federal legislation has expanded coverage for more types of telehealth services, including chronic care management, annual well visits, observation services and some mental health services.

Recent legislation also removed administrative barriers for providing telehealth in different states by streamlining the process for receiving a medical license in another state.

Telemedicine has also helped veterans receive care in a timely manner, according to another iHealthbeat story. Over 690,000 vets have received telehealth from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for 44 specialty services including:

  • audiology
  • dermatology
  • podiatry, and
  • mental health services.

Now that the VA is allowing more vets to seek care outside of the VA system, providing telehealth to vets may be another way for hospitals to bring in some additional revenue.

Preparing for services

Before you jump into providing telehealth services, you’ll want to get a sense of how many and what kind of patients will be willing to use the tool. Typically, younger patients are more open to telemedicine. However, older patients, especially those with chronic conditions, could benefit the most from telemedicine.

It’s also important that your providers are trained on the best ways to establish or maintain strong patient-physician relationships via telehealth. Earlier this year the Federation of State Medical Boards released guidance to help providers develop relationship via telehealth.

Industry leaders are expecting that telemedicine will continue to rapidly expanding over the next few years. Facilities that want to take advantage will have to make sure they have the proper technology in place — many payors and Medicare require providers to use a combination of audio and videoconferencing tools for communicating with patients.

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