Telehealth—patients receiving health care remotely via technology—isn’t a new concept. As early as the late 1800s, doctors were exploring how to use the telephone to share data and reduce the need for office visits. Today, the treatment of chronic disease for which in-person examinations aren’t necessary accounts for the majority of healthcare spending. That opens the door for greater utilization of health care via telecommunication. Patients are enjoying these three benefits now.
Improved Access to Healthcare
The ratio of primary care physicians to patients in rural areas is less than half that of urban areas. Specialists are even more difficult for people living in outlying areas to access, and that disparity is growing. A straightforward solution to the problem of accessibility is telehealth. Patients who live hours away from their doctor can visit via video, making it more manageable for them to keep appointments, according to NRTRC. And, connecting with specialists, especially mental health providers, becomes significantly easier. The inability to drive or the lack of transportation are no longer barriers to getting much-needed health care.
Decreased Health Care Costs
When health care is more accessible, patients save. Gone are the lost work hours and travel expenses associated with seeing a doctor. According to Carenet, telehealth has saved clients over $100 million on a yearly basis. The cost of routine outpatients visits via video display is lower. And, when specialists can be accessed remotely for hospitalized clients, lengths of stay decrease and inpatient care costs drop. Telehealth can’t replace physical examinations for certain complaints, but it can take the financial sting out of routine follow-up appointments and consultations for non-physical issues.
Chronic diseases, like diabetes, require intensive management, and that can be frustrating for patients who need to see multiple providers regularly. Deferred appointments are common. But telehealth can connect diabetic clients not only with their primary health care provider but also with a clinical nutritionist, an endocrinologist and a behavioral specialist—all from a single remote location or the comfort of home. Early intervention via telehealth is improving outcomes for patients with a wide range of chronic illnesses. One study shows a 50 percent decrease in mortality among those using telehealth services.
With the evolution of technology, patients are able to get medical care more easily than ever before. Caring for patients through telecommunication improves access, enhances outcomes and lowers costs. Telehealth isn’t perfect yet, but these benefits are compelling reasons to keep trying.
Check out this other article to find out when you should start taking your child to the doctor’s office!