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Telehealth care benefits the patient by greatly shortening the time between evaluation and on-site treatment and benefits the provider who is struggling with physician and specialist staffing shortages.
While COVID-19 shined a brighter spotlight on telehealth, the reality is telehealth is the new normal of health care. Remote delivery of services by health care providers – clinicians and specialists – is increasing as a primary means of enabling physicians to give patient care. Telehealth care benefits the patient by greatly shortening the time between evaluation and on-site treatment and benefits the provider who is struggling with physician and specialist staffing shortages.
As U.S. migration expands outward from cities, critical time windows for physician care are an issue. Outside of major cities, for example, it may not be possible to find a designated stroke center. Saving a stroke patient’s life is dependent on fast response. This is where telehealth can be a valuable resource. Similarly, in rural regions in the Middle East or South America, fast response via a telephysician specialist is literally the only answer to a positive patient outcome.
Besides the lifesaving contribution of telemedicine, there is a practical, financial benefit as well. Hospital providers are under constant budget pressures these days. For example, round-the-clock neurologists can cost an estimated $1.2 million. Contrast this with using a telephysician specialist on-demand service and the same patient coverage can cost just under $100,000.
Operationalizing the New Normal
Remote working, and in parallel, remote delivery of health care services, is moving from a COVID-19 response mode to a more systematic approach to the way people will work and manage their health for the long term. ROI will be enhanced for the patient needing timely response to a health issue, and for budget constrained providers needing to find efficiencies wherever possible.
Operationalizing telehealth requires further integration into the health care system by re-examining in-place systems and processes to see where telehealth can provide benefits in terms of better patient outcomes, alleviating physician staff shortages, and providing a safe environment for staff and patients. It also involves looking at existing systems to identify where equipment can be repurposed to support telehealth services to help control budget expenditures.
Telehealth considerations include:
The New Normal of Telehealth
Within the next decade, the AAMC projects, more than two out of five currently active physicians will be 65 or older. This impact on staffing will be exacerbated by increased demand as the population aged 65 and over will grow by 45%. Hospitals will face the fact they need telehealth to balance out what will become a dramatic level of staff shortages. Fortunately, advancements in telehealth virtualization technology will enable more use as budget-conscious provider organizations will be able to avoid the expense of costly hardware investments by repurposing existing resources. Add to this the ROI of having telehealth specialists on demand and telehealth presents a convincing case for being part of health care now and in the future.
Dr. Arshad Ali is the chief medical officer and president of VeeMed.