Technology has been changing the practice of medicine for decades. Digitized medical records, modern practice management systems, online payer portals, and the like all allow physicians to operate more efficiently with fewer opportunities for error. Telemedicine is another technology that is poised to make practices more profitable, improve patient outcomes, and give providers unprecedented flexibility. Conducting some visits remotely using telemedicine technology has significant upside potential for practices. Here are a few of the benefits.
Video visits are more efficient than in-person ones. This means that each provider can see more patients during the same period of time. When the service is offered to patients with insurers that will reimburse for telemedicine, practices can enjoy revenue growth without the need to add providers, office staff, or office space.
Modern telemedicine technology can be used virtually anywhere, at any time. This gives practices the option to offer extended hours or even weekend operations without requiring the physical office to be staffed.
Patients are more likely to comply with recommendations for follow-up appointments if those recommendations can be conducted via video. Video visits are also an effective way to increase patient engagement in lifestyle coaching, medication monitoring, and the management of chronic conditions. Surveys show that patients feel as satisfied, or even more satisfied with telemedicine visits.
Telemedicine gives providers the option to work from home part of the time, or to see patients outside of traditional office hours. In fact, many providers find that telehealth technology helps them maintain a healthier work/life balance. For example, it is common for medical providers to report being reluctant to take a vacation or travel on business. Telemedicine reduces this anxiety because a video visit can be conducted from anywhere. Providers who use it can travel far from home, confident that they can still provide patient care if needed.
Today’s patients have many options beside a traditional physician’s practice for care. Retail walk in clinics and stand alone urgent care operations are convenient ways for patients to get on-demand in-person care. In addition, the number of organizations offering online video visits continues to grow. These avenues are cost effective and painless for patients. Adding telehealth to a traditional practice is one way to protect against this type of competition.
In addition to the benefits of telemedicine for healthcare providers, there are advantages for office staff as well. Video visits make everyone more efficient by removing the administrative overhead of in-person visits. Office staff appreciate less waiting room crowding, and happier customers. Telemedicine also reduces their exposure to illness. And, of course, improved practice profitability benefits all employees.
No-shows and last minute cancellations are big profit drains and time wasters for medical practices. This frustration can be mitigated with the help of telemedicine by eliminating many of the factors that cause them. Transportation issues, the need to be at work, and lack of access to child care don’t matter for a video visit. Some in-person visits can even be switched to remote ones if something comes up at the last minute that prevents the patient from making it to the office.
Another way that telemedicine helps revenue growth is by turning something that providers often do for free today into a revenue stream. Most payers do not reimburse for telephone only follow-up visits, like those conducted to review test results or check in on the progress of a case. However, using telemedicine technology to add a video component often makes them reimbursable.
As this list illustrates, telemedicine is good for providers, patients, and the entire practice. These advantages explain the increasing popularity of the approach and why providers, lawmakers, insurers, and customers are all on board.