Probably one of the industries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is healthcare. Physicians and nurses are working endless hours to treat patients, and hospitals and health systems are trying to ramp up their testing capabilities for the influx of people who suspect they have the new coronavirus.
Many healthcare providers and payers are implementing initiatives to help curtail the spread of the virus. Although it’s not a new technology, telehealth, also referred to as telemedicine, is increasingly being utilized during this pandemic to treat patients without requiring them to leave their homes.
Telehealth employs telecommunications technologies such as remote patient monitoring, video conferencing and mHealth (mobile health) to assist providers in remotely delivering healthcare services. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), it “helps ensure patients receive the right care, at the right place, at the right time.”
The United States government is helping providers treat the new coronavirus through the passing of the $8.3 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which includes a provision lifting waive restrictions for Medicare beneficiaries on telehealth services. Also, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a fact sheet about Medicare’s telehealth benefits, which includes information on coverage and payment related to the new coronavirus. The agency notes that virtual check-ins are billable services, and the Medicare coinsurance and deductible apply to them.
Achieving Advantages for Patients and Providers
There are multiple reasons telehealth is an increasingly popular option with both patients and providers. Deloitte published a study that found that 90 percent of physicians agree that virtual care is beneficial in terms of increased access, communication and satisfaction. For patients, it offers 24/7 access to healthcare, improved emergency care, enhanced understanding of post-hospitalization care plans and better access to mental health resources. Through remote monitoring, they have the capability to manage their health in their home setting, thereby improving the quality and speed of their provider healthcare experience.
Outside the critical care setting, telehealth assists healthcare organizations with securely maintaining IoT devices and telehealth applications, delivering public health services, promoting population health initiatives and, most importantly, increasing the value and affordability of healthcare in the U.S. Savings in healthcare are particularly important because the U.S. spends about $3.6 trillion on healthcare – 18 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Mitigating Risks in a Pandemic
The benefits of implementing telehealth solutions are especially salient during a virus outbreak like COVID-19. Providers and patients need additional tools to help combat the risks that arise during the pandemic. Telehealth can prove especially advantageous by:
- Encouraging patients who are sick to seek medical care from home, thereby reducing contact with other people and possibly spreading the virus.
- Increasing provider efficiency and decreasing burnout by treating low-acuity and high-demand conditions.
- Saving time and money through reduced travel and e-prescribing.
- Reducing wait times.
- Decreasing the risk of contamination to at-risk populations.
- Alleviating overcrowding at physician offices, hospitals and urgent care clinics.
- Providing education on preventive measures.
- Providing data on outbreaks by geographic areas.
Proving the Value of Telehealth
If you’re still not sold on telehealth becoming an important part of the healthcare industry, perhaps these statistics can sway you:
- More than half of U.S. hospitals have implemented a telehealth program, and about 60 percent employ remote patient monitoring services.
- Provider adoption of telehealth increased 340 percent in 2019.
- Patients have reported that their concerns were resolved 85 percent of the time through telemedicine visits compared to 64 percent for in-office appointments.
- Almost 35 percent of physician practices have adopted telehealth, with two-way video/webcam usage being the most used solution.
- According to an AHA brief titled “Creating a High-value Telehealth Strategy,” 23 percent of consumers have had a virtual visit with a doctor or nurse, and 57 percent of those who had not tried are willing to do so.
Epion Health in Action
Learn more about other resources Epion is providing to help healthcare providers deal with the challenges of COVID-19.