Recently, telemedicine has grown rapidly thanks to advancements in technology and the strain of the recent pandemic. After an initial significant spike in virtual visits beginning in March of 2020, telemedicine now appears to be plateauing, inspiring speculation about the future of telemedicine.
Telemedicine has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and more improvements are on the horizon to make life and care easier for both patients and providers.
Advancements in diagnostic technology
Now that major payors are recognizing and reimbursing telemedicine, major corporations are making investments to rapidly expand telemedicine and related benefits. Advancements in cellular phone technology are making so much more possible today, and have even translated into more mobile application-based telemedicine services.
Patients can already transmit physical findings via high-resolution photographs, record and transmit EKG strips, and check heart rate and pulse oximeter readings. Future application-based telemedicine services will likely expand on these at-home diagnostics.
Specifically, tools are already being developed that utilize cell phones and additional hardware to allow remote doctors to listen to heart and lung sounds, examine ear canals, and diagnose peripheral arterial disease. Patients can access these diagnostic tools at mobile health stations and obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Remote patient monitoring is also occurring in some health systems to reduce staff exposure to COVID-19. Live streaming and data collection from bedside monitoring systems let providers monitor multiple patients and determine when staff are needed at the bedside.
Further, it lets patients with minor symptoms remain at home. Home-based symptom monitoring allows the patient to enter their symptoms through an application-based monitoring portal. Any sign of decompensation by the patient triggers a phone call from a nurse, who will triage the patient and advise them on their next steps.
Expansion from acute to chronic care
Currently, a large percentage of telemedicine addresses acute issues. Patients see a virtual doctor to diagnose ear infections, coughs and minor injuries. While this is expected to continue, there is also a need for expansion for chronic disease management. Physicians are already addressing health concerns like hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune diseases in the virtual arena, but look for more of this in the near future.
Some major health systems are already developing hospital-at-home models, in which stable but chronically ill people can receive treatment at home for exacerbations that traditionally would have resulted in a hospital stay.
Improved reimbursement rates
Historically, reimbursement for telemedicine services has been low. Currently, 31 states have parity laws that mandate health insurers to pay for telemedicine services. Look for this number to expand. However, providers still find themselves with low reimbursement rates, and many insurers have not published their policies for reimbursement. This is evolving, with some of the larger insurers recognizing telehealth services and promising competitive rates.
Many changes have also been made in Medicare coverage restrictions as a result of the CARES Act in response to COVID-19 and the increased demand for telemedicine services. Previous barriers, like state line restrictions for providers and the need for a pre-existing patient-provider relationship, have been waived. Intrigma also offers credentialing management to help expedite the addition of new staff.
Although telemedicine is shifting healthcare as we know it, the results have thus far proven positive for both patients and providers.
Remote care is safer care
Telemedicine creates a safe zone between the patient and the provider, so your providers no longer need to expose themselves to every virus and illness that afflicts their patients. Along the same line, if your provider is diagnosed with COVID-19, they can recover at home and still care for patients. This reduces losses in work time and compensation, and it reduces the spread of disease.
Appropriate use of resources
An estimated 75% of in-person visits, including expensive and time-consuming ER and urgent care visits, could be handled just as effectively by phone or virtual visit. If the ER is not overcrowded with patients seeking care for minor ailments, this resource can be more appropriately used for the sickest of patients. This, in turn, reduces healthcare spending and can increase volume for your providers. If patients utilize telemedicine instead of the ER, your providers offering virtual visits will be in greater demand.
Improving profit margins
With the shift to telemedicine, providers are questioning the need for expensive offices and support staff. Many providers are partnering with telemedicine platforms to streamline care. This can reduce time and financial losses due to late patients and patient no-shows. Generally, providers can see more patients via telemedicine than they can in person, so this increased volume combined with less overhead translates into a healthier bottom line.
Improved patient care and outcomes
Providers often find telemedicine benefits their patients. Especially in remote areas, patients may lack access to primary care and specialty services. Your telemedicine provider’s ability to connect with patients regardless of their location improves access and empowers providers to help more people.
Telemedicine and scheduling
Modern scheduling software can streamline telemedicine visit scheduling. Your scheduling software should be able to differentiate between in-person visits and virtual visits as well as minimize workflow disruptions. Additionally, you should be able to adjust staffing according to patient volumes and specify visit time slots to the visit type.
Intrigma’s Efficient Scheduler allows your providers to balance work and life. They can build their own schedules, change or swap shifts, access schedules remotely and for multiple sites, and fill open shifts quickly. The software reduces the amount of time spent building and revising schedules and tracking overtime, paid time off and vacation requests.
Intrigma’s solution can also help you track patient volumes and adjust staffing in real time to avoid costly overstaffing and frustrating understaffing. Additionally, providers who are working from home can request time slots that respect their family time but still let them be productive and care for patients.
Telemedicine is not just a trend, but a rapidly expanding medical technology that has become mainstream and is here to stay. As healthcare evolves, scheduling software must keep pace to ensure patient and provider satisfaction. To learn more about how Intrigma’s scheduling solutions can help your providers provide efficient telemedicine services, contact Intrigma today.