What is telehealth? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines telehealth as “the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision and information across distance. Telehealth includes such technologies as telephones, facsimile machines, electronic mail systems, and remote patient monitoring devices which are used to collect and transmit data for monitoring and interpretation.”
New applications make the access to technologies as easy as possible. So, it looks like telehealth is the holy grail for delivering virtual primary care. But there’s a catch: The lack of comprehensive reimbursement policies. Actually, policies for coverage of telemedicine services vary by state and insurance company.
Despite some significant obstacles, the benefits of telehealth regarding quality care and cost efficiency are clear. “Health insurer Humana and telehealth company Doctor On Demand are partnering to launch a health plan designed around virtual primary care. According to officials, the health plan, called On Hand, represents a paradigm shift in healthcare where patients will have access to comprehensive, quality care from doctors without having to visit a doctor’s office, available at significantly lower monthly premiums.”
Actually, this new health plan improves access to high-quality care while reducing overall healthcare costs to the consumer and the health plan alike.
This partnership clearly is a sign that interest in telehealth is continuing to increase. A survey of 800 U.S. physicians from another telehealth company, American Well, revealed that “a total of 22 percent of physicians said they have used telehealth to see patients, up 340 percent from 2015 when only 5 percent of physicians reported having ever used telehealth.”
Telehealth extends the reach of physicians and healthcare providers beyond traditional clinical settings and offers providers continuous real-time patient health data that is important for decision-making and delivering more personalized care. This results in broader reach, faster consultations, and improved patient care – telehealth seems to offer a solution for patients, providers and payers.
Actually, it presents such a promising
opportunity that companies not known for health care services are making
significant investments to do so. There is a reason why well-known companies
such as Amazon and Apple have made significant steps into the health care arena.
Telehealth is gaining more and more acceptance, mostly because of the evolution of the health care landscape. But what we really need in this world of new technologies and innovations is governance and oversight. Otherwise, it will be a mess and cause unwanted turbulences. Let’s not forget that the main goal is to create a better patient experience.