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According to Definitive Healthcare’s hospital data, 86 percent of the active hospitals in the country have implemented a telemedicine solution. Adoption among physicians is accelerating as well: In 2018, these providers handled 45 percent more outpatient telehealth procedures in 2018 than they did in 2017.
But how are physicians, hospitals, and others using telemedicine? In what situations do they (or their patients) elect to deliver care through this technology?
A survey from the American Medical Association (AMA) revealed that 39.5 percent of radiologists use telemedicine to interact with patients – more than any other specialty.
Teleradiology - the practice of transmitting radiological images between care providers – may have set the foundation for patient engagement via telemedicine. If the infrastructure already exists, there’s a cost advantage to setting up a video call with patients to discuss the results of their procedures: Humana found that, on average, telehealth visits cost $76 less than in-person visits.
The AMA also noted that 27.8 percent of psychiatrists engage with patients via telemedicine. This finding rings true with the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) take on telepsychiatry. The APA asserts psychiatrists can use the technology for individual, group, and family therapy, listing the following benefits:
Research from David Barrett, Lecturer in Telehealth at University of Hull in the United Kingdom, outlined how cardiologists are using telemedicine to deliver patient care.
First, they’re using videoconferencing to remotely assess patients who believe they’re showing signs of cardiac issues. Physicians often supplement these consultations with data transmitted from 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs).
In other cases, physicians use telemedicine to immediately assess stroke victims. The American Stroke Association stated that, in acute care settings, telemedicine is often the better alternative when providers don’t have the resources to provide physical exams.
Telemedicine encompasses several modalities: videoconferencing, patient data sharing and analysis, and remote patient monitoring. Of the three, videoconferencing is the most popular, according to the AMA’s study: 12.6 percent of physicians reported using it, compared to 9.4 percent for patient data analysis, and 7.3 percent for remote patient monitoring.
The focus on video conferencing makes sense, given it likely has the most favorable cost-benefit ratio. The cost of speaking with a patient or a physician over a videoconferencing app is significantly less than scheduling a meeting or patient visit.
Speaking of cost savings, a University of Iowa study revealed that rural hospitals using telemedicine in their ERs saw patients six times more quickly than hospitals which did not use such technology.
Quicker delivery isn’t the only benefit emergency departments are seeing. Research from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that, of the 5,570 patients who were treated via a telemedicine program. Of all those patients, 6.7 percent possessed non-urgent conditions, and were routed to health clinics. The program produced “societal” annual cost savings of $928,000.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been using telemedicine since the 1990s. In 2012, the VHA treated more than 150,000 patients via telehealth services, and the returns have been fantastic. According to a report from the American Hospital Association, the VHA estimates that its telehealth program produced annual savings of $6,500 per patient in 2012.
How, exactly is the VHA using the technology to deliver those savings? It uses a variety of telemedicine applications to “provide routine care and targeted care management services” to veterans suffering from hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
How will telemedicine evolve in the near future? What are adoption trends among hospitals and physician practices? In our upcoming webinar, Best Practices with Telehealth: Where to Invest and What to Avoid, Jim Abreau, Major Account Executive, delivers his insight into the practical applications of telehealth. Register below to save your spot: