The Great Telehealth Debate
Part One – All in Favor
The outbreak of COVID-19 is changing the healthcare landscape forever. From the way we test for potential viruses, how we source materials and how we depend on data, to the way providers interact with patients, all is evolving. One of the most evident changes is the uptick in the use of telehealth.
Based on the predictive data models, we are now being advised to stay at home, cancel elective procedures and avoid as much public interaction as possible. Doctor office visits have evolved from in person appointments to virtual telehealth visits…and so the great telehealth debate begins.
All in Favor
The supporters of telehealth deliver convincing arguments on the benefits and value. Many believe that the widespread adoption is long overdue. Advocates promote that telehealth is the missing component critical in solving the age-old problems within our healthcare system.
Access to Care
One of the major issues our healthcare system has faced over time is how to increase access to care. Telehealth is the most logical answer to this issue. Virtual doctor visits afford better and easier access to healthcare for everyone. This is especially true for patients in rural areas with limited numbers of providers. Providers everywhere utilizing telehealth technologies would be able to provide patients virtual consults with a wide range of specialists that may not be possible otherwise. Imagine a patient with a rare cancer now able to consult with that specialist wherever they may be in the country, or the world for that matter. Telehealth also increases access for patients with limited mobility, either physically disabled or by lack of transportation.
Cost Savings All Around
Among the numerous benefits championed in favor of telehealth are the potential for HUGE cost savings, not just for providers, but for patients too. Home monitoring significantly reduces the high cost of hospital visits. Proactively identifying and treating issues before they become problematic can result in substantial savings.
Telehealth offers savings for patients as well. Patients eliminate costs associated with travel to and from medical facilities. They also retain hours of pay previously lost for time off work. The total cost of each visit also becomes more affordable because you no longer require the use of office medical supplies like personal protection equipment whose costs are baked into the price of your visit.
In addition to reducing overall costs and expanding access to healthcare, telehealth can significantly improve quality of care and outcomes for patients. If you are like most Americans, life tends to get busy and millions of follow up appointments are skipped or cancelled. If appointments are easier and more convenient, providers would be able to monitor their patients better. Telehealth would also allow for daily monitoring of chronic diseases to help stabilize patients. It is also a proven fact the patients who are diagnosed and treated earlier have better outcomes.
Telehealth provides the vehicle and removes barriers for patients and encourages earlier interaction with their providers. Patients are much more likely to engage sooner in virtual office visits for minor issues when it does not require time off work, travel time and costs, exposure to sick patients in waiting rooms and long waits. Now that is a thought… would our providers actually be on time for our appointments? Sign me up now.
Check back soon for part two of The Great Telehealth Debate; All Opposed
Author: Della Wolfe, Director at Analytics Partners