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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Oct 9 2011   10:16PM GMT

Virtual office visits to compete with local specialists groups

Posted by: RedaChouffani
mhealth, mobile health, outsourced, Remote patient monitoring, Teleconferencing, telehealth, virtual office visits

Often when discussing outsourcing in healthcare, the first things we tend to think about are outsourcing software development, billing, call center and general helpdesk functions. But given the curren model of care, the reality is that we will eventually see more outsourcing in the form of care delivery, where outside groups step in to provide specialty care.

As medical information becomes readily available to clinicians, regardless of their location and via health information exchanges that connect provider networks, certain groups will lead by providing services that will both benefit the patient and organization through outsourcing care delivery.

As patients, we are already seeing some of these services in action today.For many of the small to mid size primary care providers, the use of outsourced radiologists to read x-rays is a common practice. This basically means that the reading of x-rays taken at the primary care physician’s office is being outsourced to an outside service provider. What is interesting here is that we will actually see a slightly more advanced flavor of outsourced care that brings value to both patients and provider.

Kaiser Permanente, for one, has long been using telemedicine to get patients to see a specialists without their even needing to leave their primary care provider’s office.So if you need to be seen by a dermatologist or orthopedic specialist, you can simply connect with them via video conferencing immediately after your visit with your PCP. So long, waiting for the referral!

This expansion of the care continuum opens the door for a new model of delivery and structure.It means that physician groups can now compete for patients across state lines (keeping in mind the different state accreditation requirements and such).This means that a patient can request to be referred to a specialist of their choice  — or the one that has to most persuasive TV ads — which may create more competition for the local private groups.Right now, most large private specialists groups tend to have a significant percentage of the patients in their community.But if care providers from out of state provide the same professional care, same day appointments, reduced fees, and virtual visits, then patients may just simply opt for the virtual office visit instead.

Several years back, this would have been an impossible scenario, but with today’s connected health environment and increasing adoption of electronic health records and standards for interoperability, physicians are able to do more remotely.Teleconferencing technology has also enabled users to do this quickly and easily.This does not mean that virtual office visits would eliminate the need for one on one with care providers, but for follow-ups and simple “minute clinic” types of illnesses, it only makes sense to seek alternatives that reduce cost, increase efficiently for everyone.

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