You might want to fasten your seat belt. This year could be a bumpy ride.
With a new administration in the White House and the fate of the Affordable Care Act in limbo, the beginning of 2017 portends a lot of turbulence for our healthcare IT journey ahead.
Luckily, we have a host of new in-flight technologies to help us with our travels, and the timing couldn’t be better to put them to the test. Precision medicine, artificial intelligence, and telemedicine are right there in front of us and ready to be used. We’ll also need assistance with navigation, better ways of working together, and to stay safe along the way. Data management, interoperability solutions, and security tools can help us face those challenges.
And if you need advice and a little comfort and companionship from a fellow passenger or pilot, look no further. HMT’s industry experts are here to provide their knowledge about what lies ahead for patients and providers alike.
It’s a weird feeling not to know where you’re going, but we can handle a change in plans. We’ve certainly done that before, and we’ll get there one way or another.
Telemedicine today and tomorrow
Michael Sherling, M.D., MBA, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Modernizing Medicine
As we enter 2017 and continue to see healthcare technology and delivery evolve, it’s important to reflect on progress, hurdles, and what lies ahead. Key areas of focus in recent months and years have been improved access to care and quality; telemedicine is a technology and strategy that has been highly touted for its potential to improve both.
Since its inception, telemedicine has been a hotly debated topic throughout the healthcare space. The potential has always been evident, but the technology, compliance, and financial models have required ongoing refinement to make this remote care delivery model viable. While early models and technologies were clunky, telemedicine is quickly becoming more mainstream and accepted by patients, providers, and payers. Unfortunately, it seems as if telemedicine took a backstage role during 2016. However, it appears that in 2017 it will thrive, in particular with the new language in the 21st Century Cures Act. This groundbreaking legislation mandates4 that by March 2018, Congress is advised which telehealth services are eligible for reimbursement by Medicare and private payers.
Many physicians view telemedicine as an alternative and efficient way to serve patients. It allows them to provide timely treatment, diagnosis, and professional advice for patients when a virtual visit is appropriate. Often, patients are not able to come into the physical doctor’s office for a variety of reasons, including a lack of mobility or geographic separation. In addition, telemedicine creates a convenient way to treat and assist patients that might not require an in-person appointment, such as follow-up for a rash or acne.
While physicians should understand how new technologies may fit into their workflow before adopting them, telemedicine can provide a unique opportunity for physicians to up-level their business and patient care. With smartphones becoming ubiquitous across the general populace, the primary tools already exist to enable this innovative and powerful new care delivery model.
Here are a few telemedicine thoughts that may come into play in 2017 and
- Telemedicine solution within the EHR System. Currently, only a few select vendors and healthcare providers offer telemedicine, and even fewer have it integrated with their EHR system. As the importance of patient engagement grows, the need for patients and physicians to have access to accurate medical information such as medications and allergies will be critical for its future success. One platform that includes both the EHR system and the telemedicine solution solves this patient safety concern.
- Additional revenue stream. With telemedicine, physicians may add a revenue stream to their practices. First, if a patient is a no-show, providers can fill that time treating patients virtually and still get paid for their time. Physicians can also see patients in the office who may have more immediate needs and use telehealth technology to care for patients who can simply share a photo for a quick follow-up visit.
- Rural care should improve. It’s no secret that access to healthcare in rural areas is a challenge. Telemedicine can provide physicians with another means to access their patients and care for them without an in-office visit, thus changing how patients living in remote areas are treated.
- Even more data can surface. Data is crucial to navigating today’s complicated healthcare landscape. It allows physicians to identify and treat complicated diseases, build up focus areas for their practice, or measure patient satisfaction. Telemedicine data will create more opportunities for physicians to improve customer service and their disease-lines for patients.
Technology continues to play an increasingly larger role in improving physician efficiency and patient care. For physicians who have mainly charted on paper or utilized old technology, new systems may be a challenge, but those who do their homework and understand which systems and technologies best fit their practice and patients should thrive.
The healthcare space is moving forward. By the time our predictions come to fruition, it is likely another form of technology will surface. That said, we do see telemedicine as a huge opportunity and one worth further exploration and adoption. It will require a group effort to achieve some of the positive outcomes I’ve outlined, but I do believe that the patients, providers, and vendors are up for the challenge.