Telemedicine is evolving and and growing to include an integration of care with other virtual healthcare solutions, convenience, accessibility, and improved patient health experiences
Just a few years ago, a virtual doctor’s visit felt like a short-term solution that helped ensure continuance of care while riding out the Pandemic. Today, what began as a necessity is now a service in high demand affecting nearly every sector of healthcare.
A McKinsey study shows that at least 76% of American health care consumers have expressed interest in virtual care and adoption is picking up speed. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calls the increase in telehealth adoption “massive” and shows a 63-fold increase from the start of the Pandemic to now in telehealth Medicare services alone.
As demand for remote care rises with patients, telemedicine adoption is also on the increase with providers. It’s becoming more and more commonplace for physicians to consult with their patients without leaving their office chairs.
Trend Watch: Remote Patient Monitoring
Advances in telemedicine are making a greater range of healthcare services more accessible to more people, particularly in underserved areas. Currently, even patients in remote and rural areas are receiving care from providers that range from general practitioners to cardiologists.
Through remote monitoring, information is easily shared between patients and providers, improving virtual care coordination and management of complex cases—all without the patient or doctor having to meet regularly.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM), by definition, “a method of healthcare delivery that uses the latest advances in information technology to gather patient data outside of traditional healthcare settings.”
As the levels of adoption and technology continues to grow, providers will be better able to manage even acute and chronic conditions while rural and remote patients enjoy an increase in comfort and a decrease in travel costs and the risk of infection and other complicating factors.
Trend Watch: Health Apps
Another trend showing promise with both users and providers is the advent and use of telehealth apps that help patients track existing conditions in real time.
As patients enjoy more convenience in care and easier access to their Personal Health Information (PIH), data will play a vital role in the success of and adoption of telemedicine applications. These apps generate a tremendous amount of patient medical data, including medical reports, care logs, vital statistics, and prescriptions.
Currently, only 26 states require insurance reimbursements for care received through health apps, but that number will likely grow. Here are a few that accept insurance:
- MDLIVE, which promises “fast hassle-free virtual care” and allows patients to connect with general practitioners, pediatricians, behavioral therapists, and psychiatrists 24/7 - including weekends and holidays
- LiveHealth Online Mobile, which allows user to sign up, log in, and choose their provider within minutes
- Doctor on Demand works with many (but not all) health insurance carriers; users can see providers 24/7 as “walk-ins” or by appointment, and connect in real time with a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist
Even though health apps show real promise, both in quality of care and patient use, many carriers are still working out issues such as billing for lab and imaging services. Before you speak with your health insurance clients about specific health apps, make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t.
Expansion in Services
Patients will always need to see providers in person for one reason or another, but telehealth is likely to continue to expand and become a permanent part of healthcare.
This year alone, we can expect to see the number of telehealth services continue to grow, and extend to other areas of healthcare, such as follow-up for patients who are recovering from surgeries and serious illnesses.
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