Revolutionary Telemedicine is Set to Bloom in 2015

Telehealth & telemedicine are the future of medical diagnosis & health care. With non-stop increase of health care fees, a cheaper and more convenient alternative with proven results, will surely pave way to more Americans having access to medical care and recovery.

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Telemedicine is Rising as the Future of Health

Susan D. Hall of FierceHealthIT, based on Fleshman’s article, picked out four reasons why telemedicine will trend in 2015. Namely, they are:

  • Faster Internet connections and better software provide a better video chat experience than in the past
  • With mobile devices, people can consult a doctor from anywhere
  • The adoption of electronic health records makes it easier for doctors to access patient records
  • Patients are comfortable with asynchronous messaging, which can be more time-efficient for doctors

Fleshman noted that in the beginning, it was thought that the convenience brought on by telemedicine and technology “would appeal mostly to younger patients, who expect to be able to access services on the Internet, and it does.” However, he points out that “the area where it will have the most impact may well be with older populations.”

As for the cost, since providers are now “increasingly being paid for outcomes rather than procedures, they are incentivized to provide care in the most efficient way possible and telemedicine is cheaper than in-person care,” noted Fleshman. “And, with Medicare and Medicaid beginning to cover not-in-person consultations, reimbursement for telemedicine is also becoming more mainstream.” Indeed, Richard A. Kimball Jr., CEO of HEXL, concurs, stating: “The era of preventive medicine and home healthcare monitoring is on the rise. The full integration of telemedicine in our healthcare delivery system is not far off as developments in technology continue along with the improvements in reimbursement.”

It makes sense for insurers and health care tech companies to develop software which streamlines telehealth services for people and the doctors who serve them. Heart disease is the number one chronic illness in the U.S. in terms of spending. In a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) chronic conditions account for 75% of spending in health care and 9.5% of it is from heart disease among other ailments like mental health, diabetes, kidney disease and pulmonary disease.

The OECD also projected a total of $2.2 trillion medical spends from 2013 to 2023 in America. With about 55% of the country’s total population suffering from heart disease, 55.7% of these are inpatient and 10.8% are at home.

No wonder why patients with heart disease spend the most money. First, patients need to undergo several surgeries depending on the heart’s state. An average Open Heart Surgery will cost a patient an average of $15,000-$20,000 depending on the hospital, while a heart transplant normally cost around $787,800 up to $900,000. Second, these procedures are very complicated and the preparation needed before the operation itself is lengthy.

Because of this, patients are required to stay in the hospital longer. And with several additional apparatuses needed to support the patient, as well as medicines, there is no doubt why patients spend this high. In the 2011 OECD report, they have found out that compared with other developed countries, the U.S. has the highest percentage of unmet medical care due to incrementally high cost over average income. Over 35% of the total population has lesser income over health care expenses.

All these factors lead to one problem, and that will be expense. Due to high cost, patients would rather not consult a doctor, or fill a prescription form, and skip required test or treatment.

What health care providers suggest will be capitation. By capitation providers can tailor services based on the patient’s ability to pay. One example is through capitation of days in the hospital. If the patient stays in the hospital with an average of 743 days, 595 days of it will by capitated, which in turn makes the patient spend 20% less or a total of 148 days saved from cost. Another one will be an emergency room visit. If the patients frequent ERs an average of 423 times, and 254 of it will be capitated, patient will pay 40% off the usual amount.

According to Oliver Wyman Group, they are forecasting that for this year it will be a 50-50 percent split between the cost shouldered by the patients and the full or partial capitation. And by 2020, they are seeing an 80-20 percent split, 80% coming from capitation services.Another option patients can look at is telehealth. Telehealth is another cheaper alternative for patients with heart disease or any chronic ailment. This is a convenient type of health care since it is conducted at home. It also reduces costs spent in hospital versus at home by almost 50%. If patients are spending an average of $6,400 for each stay, with telehealth it will be reduced to only $3,300.

In a report from Substitute Hospital at Home for Older Persons, they found out that patients are more satisfied with telehealth services because it improves their cognitive functions due to use of technology, it also improves lifespan, and lessens risk of readmission.

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Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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