Telemedicine has revolutionized healthcare delivery in recent years by bringing doctors into living rooms via video. What once might have been considered science fiction is very much a reality.
The concept of telemedicine started as phone and radio consults. One of the earliest examples of telemedicine was in Australia, where, in the early 1900s, people living in remote parts of the country communicated with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia via bicycle-powered two-way radios.
While the general concept has remained the same, modern telemedicine has migrated toward direct video connections between doctors and patients. Today, the process is as easy as downloading an app or subscribing to a service like Doctor on Demand. You can even buy a wireless stethoscope so doctors can listen to your heart during the video conference.
Telemedicine also stands to change how more critical and advanced medical situations are addressed. For example, robotic telemedicine can be used to begin care for stroke patients at remote hospitals.
Despite its increasing popularity, there is still opportunity for telemedicine to grow. According to a recent study, 52% of consumers are interested in video visits for post-surgical or inpatient follow-up, while 20% of consumers would prefer video visits for middle of the night care.
There are many benefits to increased adoption: telemedicine saves time and money, but most importantly helps prevent illness and brings top quality care to remote areas. Here’s a closer look at the main advantages of this revolutionary practice.
It can be annoying and time consuming to make a doctor’s appointment, let alone get yourself to the office. Many patients put the whole thing off until the last minute. Or worse, wait until they need to go to the hospital.
Telemedicine encourages people to get medical assistance before they become seriously ill. It also prevents people from taking extra time off of work for doctor appointments or extended treatment because they let a cough turn into bronchitis. That tickle in your throat is easy to put off when you consider the chore of making a doctor’s appointment. Hoping for it to go away often results in being bed ridden a few days later.
Additionally, telemedicine provides service on the portion of the mental health spectrum where employees might hesitate to make an appointment for fear of HR finding out.
There’s nothing convenient about the timing of a doctor’s appointment. It’s always during the week and often conflicts with work schedules. The beauty of telemedicine is the convenience: everyone can make time for a two- to five-minute phone call, even at the office.
It also helps during times when doctors aren’t available. If your child has an ear infection at 4am on Sunday morning and no doctor answers your call, the last resort is the emergency room or urgent care. Telemedicine provides an alternative service method during these times of need and can be accessed from the comfort of the patient’s home within minutes.
The costs of going to urgent care or the emergency room can be exorbitant. Urgent Care and emergency room costs start at $150 and $250, respectively, and only go up from there. Patients also waste time in the waiting room, sometimes spending hours just to see a doctor.
Plus, emergency room costs can quickly spiral out of control. Emergency room doctors are trained to look at worst-case scenarios, not common issues. Often, this results in many costly and unnecessary tests that add to the expense.
Virtual doctor’s appointments, on the other hand, average around $45 per visit. Some patients still require visits to urgent care and the emergency room but virtual appointments can act as triage and cut down on unnecessary trips.
Like the early forms of telemedicine that helped bring care to remote Australian communities, modern telemedicine can provide enhanced medical attention to rural communities and other remote areas. The practice is particularly helpful for rural residents who have been previously diagnosed with diabetes, COPD or other chronic illness and require frequent hospitalization or care. Doctors can now monitor these patients remotely via telemedicine instead of requiring long trips to and from the nearest hospital.
And healthcare consumers are beginning to crave the convenience of telemedicine. 74% of patients said they would use a telemedicine service if available. The good news is some healthcare plans, like Apta Health, are incorporating telemedicine into their programs. With Apta Health, employers can choose whether to offer Doctor on Demand with a copay structure or the fee can apply to an employee’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum under a consumer driven plan.
Contact us to bring the value of telemedicine to your clients or employees.
Author: Michael Poelman
As President of Apta Health, LLC, Michael is thrilled to influence some of the most exciting and transformative work being done today in the areas of care coordination and self-funded employee benefits programs. The Apta team of insurance professionals are passionate about improving the benefits landscape for mid-market companies and the human beings that make up their greatest resource. We stay on top of recent trends in healthcare technology to provide our clients with the most up-to-date information and advice about navigating healthcare consumerism. At Apta Health, the value of care coordination is fully realized as a means to optimize self-funded healthcare programs so as to control rising costs while maintaining excellent care.