Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare

 
posted on: September 25, 2018    |    by: Julia Beam

With medical costs on the rise, policy makers are pressured to produce new, innovative ways of improving access to quality care at lower costs. One of the most forward-thinking solutions to this challenge is the widespread use of Telemedicine. Telemedicine is real-time, face-to-face audio and visual communication with a healthcare provider.

Telemedicine services were first used to serve patients in underserved, rural areas with underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure. However, telemedicine has more potential than just that. It’s possible that widespread implementation of telehealth technologies will drastically improve access to care, increase patient-practitioner touchpoints for safer, more effective care, and it’s estimated to save the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars every year (Vo, 2008).

It’s a common misconception that telemedicine is limited to certain services, like quick, “minute clinic”-type visits. Although this is a huge benefit, telemedicine can be used for any visit type that doesn’t require a hands-on exam or certain tests. WellNow, a retail medical clinic in Huntington Beach, offers telemedicine visits for a variety of services, including diagnosis and treatment for minor ailments and healthy lifestyle and nutritional consultations. This is a forward-thinking approach to care because most people have a smartphone and if they don’t, they know someone who does.

Imagine the scenario where you’ve got a rash on your arm and it’s not getting better. It can sometimes take several weeks to see your primary care doctor (The Doctor Will See You… Sometime) so your options are limited to urgent care or telemedicine. You could go to the clinic down the street from your house after a long day at work and wait for over an hour to be seen, sitting in a room full of sick people. Your other option is to schedule a video visit where you can get the timely medical attention you need from the comfort of your own home. What would you choose?

Videoconferencing technologies have also been used in family practice, specialties, pharmacy, speech therapy, social work, and many more practice types (Jarvis-Selinger et al., 2008). Telemedicine has already become popular across disciplines and the number of patients using telemedicine services is estimated to reach 7 million by this year (Spanner, 2016). However, technology has advanced much quicker than the legal system in developing telehealth laws and guidelines and policy makers are being pressured to pass more laws that make telemedicine a functional process of care.

There are key legislations that have provided a solid foundation for the continued evolution of telehealth offerings and insurance reimbursement. Those include, the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997, Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, and Interstate Compact of 2015. Although several of the laws addressing telehealth establish guidelines for reimbursement, telemedicine is often offered at an affordable cash rate.

WellNow offers telemedicine visits for less than some urgent care co-pays and patients can get the care they need from virtually anywhere they have an internet connection. Skip the wait times and use telemedicine instead. With the rising costs of healthcare and long wait times, using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits with a provider seems like a no-brainer!

 

References

Jarvis-Selinger, S., Chan, E., Payne, R., Plohman, K. & Ho, K. (September, 2008). Clinical

Telehealth Across the Disciplines: Lessons Learned. Telemedicine and e-Health. (7): 720-725. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.cui.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=7&sid=8e8b7173-39eb-45fd-9b9c-1eaad4fc9bb3%40sessionmgr106&hid=129&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=2008-14025-005&db=psyh

Spanner, M. (October, 2016). Balancing Healthcare’s Iron Triangle with Telemedicine. Advance

Healthcare Network: Radiology Life. http://radiologylife.advanceweb.com/balancing-healthcares-iron-triangle-with-telemedicine/

Vo, A. H. (May, 2008). The Telehealth Promise: Better Health Care and Cost Savings for the

21st Century. AT&T Center for Telehealth Research and Policy Electronic Health Network. The University of Texas Medical Branch. https://telehealth.utmb.edu/presentations/The%20Telehealth%20Promise-Better%20Health%20Care%20and%20Cost%20Savings%20for%20the%2021st%20Century.pdf

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