Telehealth, the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information, has the potential to offset a coming crisis in the U.S. healthcare system: the shortage of qualified doctors and specialists. Telehealth not only helps to increase access to healthcare, but also has the potential to reduce healthcare costs, wait times, and geographic barriers.
This is particularly significant given today’s most worrisome trend. Physician demand continues to grow faster than supply, creating a projected shortfall of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians, 14,800 to 49,300 primary care physicians, and 33,800 to 72,700 non-primary care specialists by 2030. What’s more, rural populations continue to shrink and the rising cost of education has led to fewer students going into M.D. programs.
The Telehealth Solution
Experts predict seven million new telemedicine users in 2018, with more than 29 states having passed laws mandating that insurers cover telemedicine services.
Consumers have embraced telehealth, with almost 75% of Americans stating they are willing to schedule a telemedicine appointment. This is no surprise given its key benefits:
- Make and keep video visits without ever leaving the comfort of home or missing work
- Reasonable costs – frequently little more than the cost of a typical copay for visit to the doctor’s office
- Minimal wait times
- Avoid inconvenience and discomfort of taking time off from work, arranging transportation, or sitting in crowded waiting rooms
Clearly, a video visit is no substitute for a one-on-one, in-person examination in some cases, but innovative strategies make it possible to manage the limitations of telehealth in many situations.
Optimizing the Telehealth
A growing number who have already implemented telehealth programs on a limited basis are considering innovative new business models for future expansion to meet the increasing demand for access to care.
As a significantly promising solution, digital health technology helps providers connect with patients to improve patient health, reduce unnecessary and expensive healthcare interventions, and create a more collaborative health and wellness environment.
Advanced telehealth business models are laying the groundwork for robust ROI (return-on-investment) and higher quality telehealth care down the road, reducing the cost of care and improving patient satisfaction with value-based reimbursement approaches.
In fact, some companies now specialize in teaching and consulting with administrators on how to design and incorporate more sophisticated business models. By implementing cost sensitive and proactive treatment compliance checks-ins, these models enhance and promote the provider-patient relationship and reduce expensive re-hospitalizations. The result is better methods, significant gains in access, improved quality of care, and better outcomes for patients.
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