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Telehealth News

Telehealth Solutions Favored by Patients and Providers

By Vera Gruessner

- There has been a strong movement toward adopting telehealth solutions throughout the healthcare field since it allows doctors to provide care to patients when and where they need it. For instance, a survey taken by American Well found that nearly 60 percent of physicians are in favor of communicating with patients via video visits, which shows that telehealth solutions are making headway across the country.

Telemedicine Services and Technologies

Additionally, almost 70 percent of physicians felt that video is a better tool for patient communication than email or phone. Telehealth solutions seem to hold more favor among doctors than text messages as well.

“There’s a sea of change going on within the physician community,” Roy Schoenberg, MD, CEO of American Well, said in a company press release. “Doctors see value in virtual visits for their patients and also in managing their own work-life balance. We’ve seen weekly physician inquiries about practicing online triple in less than six months.”

A prior report from Cisco also showed key findings from a user poll. More than 60 percent of patients throughout the US, Germany, and Japan stated being in favor of participating in virtual care and telehealth solutions.

The majority of consumers excluding those in Germany and Japan were comfortable with having their health records available via the cloud. As many as 75 percent of users located in China, Russia, and Mexico were in favor of video technology or text messaging when communicating with specialists about their medical condition.

“The patient and care provider experiences are top of mind in health care around the world.  Due to the increasing convergence of the digital and physical, there is an opportunity to provide increased collaboration and information sharing among providers to improve the care experience and operate more efficiently,”  Kathy English, Public Sector and Healthcare Marketing at Cisco, said in a public statement.   

Utilizing telehealth solutions could be a key method for addressing shortages of primary care physicians or specialists. Many rural areas may not have many doctors to offer a variety of in-house services. As such, telemedicine tools could be a way for patients to speak to top specialists around the country. However, state or federal regulations will need to ensure physicians are able to be reimbursed and work across state lines when using telehealth technology.

One study detailing Medicare spending on telehealth solutions in 2012 shows that the funds were mostly spent on mental health services and covered only a miniscule portion of the entire Medicare budget. In 2012, the Medicare spending on telemedicine totaled slightly more than $5 million.

“Medicare has been one of the principal payers for healthcare services delivered via telemedicine to rural beneficiaries since 1997,” the report began. “Early projections of the cost of covering telemedicine for Medicare beneficiaries made legislators cautious to take on such a large obligation, but subsequent reports showed actual expenditures to be far below early estimates. As interest in expanding Medicare's coverage for services delivered via telemedicine grows, further examination of the extent of telemedicine use within the Medicare program and the costs associated with this use is warranted.”

The use of telehealth solutions including video recordings and secure messaging tools could lead to significant savings for companies throughout the United States, according to a study from Towers Watson. Telemedicine services could bring as much as $6 billion annually in healthcare savings.

In order for these cuts to occur, employees and their dependents would need to switch to video-based teleconferences with their physicians instead of face-to-face visits as well as urgent care or emergency visits. Out of all employers surveyed in the Towers Watson study, 37 percent stated they would offer telehealth solutions to their employees in 2015 while an additional 34 percent will be waiting until 2016 or 2017 to provide telemedicine services.

“While this analysis highlights a maximum potential savings, even a significantly lower level of use could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings,” Dr. Allan Khoury, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said in the company press release. “Achieving this savings requires a shift in patient and physician mindsets, health plan willingness to integrate and reimburse such services, and regulatory support in all states.”

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