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Advantages of telemedicine held up by lack of resources

Some providers have been unable to achieve the advantages of telemedicine because they are short on resources and can't afford the associated costs.

Patients today are no longer looking for medical facilities to simply provide them with appropriate care; they...

also want quicker responses to their needs and questions. But not all physicians deploy the technologies and tools that will meet patients' calls for greater convenience. The technology is available, so why can't all physicians adopt a care model where they can interact with their patients beyond the limits of the traditional office visit model?

This is where telemedicine services, or other kinds of remote patient monitoring, come in. Ideally, telemedicine applies to patients with minor to moderate illnesses, or who are diagnosed with a chronic condition, and may not always require their physical presence at a doctor's office. Not all physician practices have begun telemedicine initiatives, in part because the traditional fee-for-service payment model remains widely used. The current reimbursements offered for services carried out remotely don't always offer the full benefits a physician would receive from treating a patient in a face-to-face encounter.

Costs halting telemedicine innovation

Providers are unable to achieve the advantages of telemedicine initiatives because they have been met by opposition due to a number of other factors, not limited to the following list.

  • Lack of cost-effective platforms that both patients and care providers can easily adopt
  • Lack of resources to help implementation and create a list of best practices
  • Unproven business model for small to mid-sized practices
  • A phone call or electronic message can achieve the same results as telemedicine
  • High costs for equipment and software

Although some of those objections are sometimes true, the push for telemedicine has continued. Some healthcare professionals believe it is an area that physicians and hospitals should invest in sooner rather than later. If they fail to do so, they risk losing patients' confidence in their ability to care for them in the most advanced fashion.

Advantages of telemedicine initiatives: Developments shaping

Some of the following trends that are shaping the healthcare industry are directly tied to telemedicine initiatives and more interactive forms of patient care.

  • Many of today's healthcare policies are designed to reduce healthcare costs and increase access to care
  • Unified communications platforms offer improved security, as well as easy-to-use tools that offer high-quality, low-cost Internet videoconferencing
  • Patients are more familiar with videoconferencing than in the recent past and many have the knowledge and technology to use their mobile devices for video communication
  • Patients are actively looking for providers and healthcare practices that offer quick and convenient access to physicians
  • Recent CMS data showed that reimbursement payments for telemedicine services amounted to $13.9 million in 2014, signaling the growing importance of remote services
  • Patients with chronic diseases require more communication and care management between in-person visits.

Many healthcare executives recognize the value of undertaking telemedicine initiatives. It will likely be part of all future successful health organizations. Telemedicine services allow healthcare organizations to provide care for people outside county and state lines. Not only will this increase patient populations, it can be an opportunity for business growth.

However, telemedicine comes with its own set of challenges, which are likely to affect employees' workflows, particularly among those who work at small- to mid-sized medical practices. Workflow concerns aside, enough technological advancements have been made that healthcare organizations should at least consider offering some form of telemedicine to their patients.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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This was last published in June 2015

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