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Telehealth solves many challenges by enabling easy, convenient contact between patients and physicians
Over the last decade, few issues in politics have been more polarizing than healthcare. It’s driven a deep wedge between Democrats and Republicans, particularly following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the subsequent efforts to repeal it, and has caused rifts within those parties.
Yet despite all the animosity, there is one subset of healthcare that has had the opposite effect, pulling ample support from both parties to drive multiple initiatives forward: telehealth. Whether it takes the form of remote patient monitoring (RPM), online video discussions between patients and providers (telehealth), asynchronous information exchange or some other option, it’s a concept politicians of all persuasions, from fiscal conservatives to social liberals, are lining up to promote for one simple reason: it makes sense.
Despite all the wrangling over the specific path to get there, most politicians are in favor of transitioning healthcare from fee-for-service (FFS) to value-based care. Paying for outcomes rather than for activities is very American; we like to see results. It’s also critical to bringing the skyrocketing cost of healthcare under control, especially if the ultimate goal is to keep people healthy so they consume fewer healthcare resources and dollars.
The challenge, however, is that nearly everyone spends more time outside of the healthcare system than within it. That makes it far more difficult for primary care physicians and other providers to monitor the health of their patients on a regular basis, which means they often don’t learn of developing health issues until they get so bad their patients can’t stand it anymore.
Telehealth solves that challenge by enabling easy, convenient contact between patients and providers. Remote patient monitoring in particular can give providers daily or even real-time data on the conditions of their highest-risk patients so they can address developing issues before they require an emergency department visit or inpatient stay. And these days, telehealth is easier than ever to put in place, because the enabling technology is nearly universal.
Pew Research says that 81 percent of Americans now own smartphones, and more than half (52 percent) own tablets. So in many cases, the infrastructure is already there. Providers simply need to take advantage of it to drive better health outcomes.
That’s also what makes it easy for politicians to get behind telehealth. They don’t need to spend billions to create a new system. They merely need to throw their support behind it to encourage its use and growth. Here are some of the ways they are doing that:
These are just a few current examples of the gathering momentum and support for telehealth services on both sides of the aisle, from the grassroots up to the Federal level. The changes being implemented now will have a profoundly positive effect on the way care is delivered in the future.
Primary care physicians will find it particularly beneficial, especially as more of their revenue shifts from FFS to value-based care, where they take on more risk and are more directly responsible for the health outcomes of their patients. The sooner they take advantage of this trend, the better-prepared they will be as telehealth becomes the norm in healthcare.
Eric Rock is CEO of Vivify Health, an innovator and leader in connected healthcare delivery solutions, offering holistic remote care management while serving the nation’s largest and most progressive health systems, healthcare organizations and employers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.