5 Benefits of Telehealth for Medical Practices
Gone are the days of long wait times at the doctor’s office.
Fortunately, we live in a day and age where we have access to an infinite amount of technology in the palms of our hands.
One of these technologies that we are fortunate enough to have access to is telehealth. The introduction of this healthcare model can be a game-changer for clinicians seeking new ways to serve patients.
What is telehealth? Telehealth is a fast, convenient way for patients to talk to medical and mental health providers about issues, symptoms, and more. This technology allows patients to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer to connect with a professional within minutes. Utilizing telehealth has a long list of benefits that will help practices better deliver care and create an improved experience for both patients and clinics.
Telehealth is flexible and lends itself well to both primary care providers and specialists, allowing them to be more accessible and to help patients wherever there is an internet or cellular connection.
1: Save Time for Patients and Practices
We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” This applies to medical practices as well. In most clinics, it is typical for a patient to arrive, check in, sit in the waiting room, have their name called, and be placed in another room before receiving care. This can take a while, and the process is exacerbated by the commute to the provider’s office. Additionally, they may have needed to schedule weeks out from when they initially called. This can create frustration and a poor experience for the patient. As you know, patient care and satisfaction are crucial to the operations and growth of a medical practice.
With telehealth, a nurse practitioner or doctor can see up to 5 patients in the amount of time it may take to see one in-clinic patient. This opens additional appointment times, leading to reduced scheduling turnaround time and an increase in revenue and patient satisfaction. Time is an invaluable resource that should be spent wisely, particularly in healthcare.
2: Reduce No-Shows and Cancellations
Did you know that the sooner appointments are scheduled out, the fewer no-shows and cancellations a medical practice experiences? This is due to a number of reasons. First, patients are more likely to remember the date and time of their appointments if the appointment is within a reasonable timeframe. Although you likely have an excellent appointment reminder system in place, patients are more likely to forget or double-book themselves if their appointment is more than a couple of weeks away. Second, it decreases the chances that a patient has looked for and received care elsewhere. Appointments conducted remotely require less time and can be scheduled sooner. In turn, telehealth cuts patients’ travel time, travel cost, and the costs associated with missing work. All of these benefits make the patient more likely to keep and make it to their appointments.
3: Improve Clinical Workflow and Reduce Overhead Costs
A telehealth system can work as a pipeline to quickly prioritize delivery of patient care and triage each case that comes in. This will improve clinical workflow and allow providers to treat patients in order from critical to non-urgent cases. Telehealth systems also provide a HIPAA-compliant way to capture, store, and manage patient data in an organized fashion.
Studies have shown that there is immense potential for telehealth to help save on healthcare budgeting and reduce overhead costs. This goes for the entire healthcare industry, the providers, and the patients. While it takes an initial investment to implement a telehealth solution, research shows that it will provide a return on investment. Reduced operation costs and more clinical structure are sure to improve the quality of work of office staff
4: Increase Patient Reach and Accessibility
Telehealth is exceptionally valuable for expanding access to care in rural and underserved areas. Approximately 62 million Americans (19% of the population) reside in rural areas. Yet, these areas are served by just 9% of all physicians. Because of barriers such as the time required to travel, limited public transportation options, and harsh weather conditions, these patients wouldn’t ordinarily have access to timely, attainable healthcare. Telehealth’s features can narrow or eliminate this gap between the number of patients needing care and the number of physicians that provide care in these areas.
The Institute of Medicine for the National Academies performed a study in 2012 that found that telehealth improves rural hospital volume, heightens quality of care, and cuts down on costs by reducing both readmissions and unnecessary emergency room and follow-up visits. Beds can be limited at facilities in these areas, and this accessibility helps facilities keep beds open for those in need of critical care.
5: Consultations, Remote Monitoring, & Follow-Up Appointments with Ease
Physicians, nurse practitioners, and other providers can conduct initial consultations with new patients in a real-time consultation video call. Depending on the results of the call, providers can then make a diagnosis, prescribe medication, or request an in-office visit from the patient if necessary.
Healthcare providers want to provide their patients with the tools and information needed to manage chronic conditions and engage in self-care. With a reported increase in chronic health conditions, utilizing telehealth for remote monitoring provides a way for medical providers to improve outcomes all while cutting costs. These patients can report metrics and receive instruction from medical professionals in the comfort of their own home. Remote therapy sessions are becoming increasingly popular for patients as well. In fact, certain studies have shown that these patients can be more apt to open up to their medical professionals and provide more information while at home.
In addition, following up on symptoms, getting a refill on a prescription, and providing a diagnosis can all be done with ease using a brief video call. Since telehealth platforms are secure and HIPAA-compliant, they provide a secure medium to transmit image reports and other documents that are otherwise unable to be sent via email for HIPAA purposes.
These benefits are undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that telehealth can greatly improve our healthcare system. Patients love having access to healthcare in the comfort of their homes without having to worry about germs, travel, long wait times, or limited office hours. Telehealth can help patients and clinicians overcome a number of barriers that stand between patients and the healthcare they deserve. Telehealth also provides a competitive advantage, allowing you to gain more patients with new models of care that are convenient and affordable for all. The addition of telehealth to a medical practice can drastically improve the practice’s workflow, reduce overhead, and improve patient satisfaction.