GreenLight Medical technology is integrated into the frameworks of hospital supply chain all over the United States. As a result we are especially sentient of the positive impact technology can have on patient care and the overall hospital landscape. We believe that telehealth will be a powerful tool of the future, and have compiled a quick overview of the ways in which it can shape healthcare for the better!

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth, as defined by the Center for Connected Health Policy, is “a collection of means or methods for enhancing healthcare, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies (CCHP, 2018).” It is employed in hospitals in the form of email or patient portals for physician-patient communication; live video conversations between patients and specialists; and remote patient monitoring, in which technology is used to monitor and send status reports on a patient located miles away.

What are the Driving Forces Behind Telehealth?

The most significant driving forces behind the rise of telehealth is market size and desire. Of the 1.25 billion annual ambulatory visits, approximately one third (over 400 million) of those patients can be treated through telemedicine. In the past year, only .5 percent of the 400 million potential patients were treated with telehealth tools (Guttman, 2018). This signifies shockingly low market penetration in contrast to high levels of interest in telehealth. According to a 2016 Salesforce report, over 60 percent of patients support the use of telemedicine, while over 71 percent want their physicians to adopt mobile health applications (Salesforce, 2016). Unsurprisingly, millennials are the primary proponents of telehealth. As millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce, growth of the  industry is inevitable.

Another driving factor behind the rise of telehealth is rising healthcare costs for employers. Within the United States, the Office of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), estimates that over 17.2 percent of the GDP is spent on healthcare costs. Scaled down, on average this accounts for 7.6 percent of operating costs for employers. Studies conducted by Towers Watson conclude that the implementation of telehealth has the potential to save U.S. employers over six billion annually (Guttman, 2018). On average, a digital appointment costs between $40-$50, while an in-person visit can cost the patient much more (Rehm, 2018). By implementing telehealth as a first-step before a hospital visit, or for use in non-emergency situations, both the patient and provider can cut costs.

The Benefits of Telehealth

In addition to cost saving potential, telehealth can meet the needs of underserved populations. The number of Primary Care Physicians (PCP) in the United States has dropped significantly in recent years, leaving over 65 million Americans in “primary care deserts,” or areas where the number of Primary Care Physicians meets the needs of less than 50 percent of the population. Even in “non-primary care deserts” 40 percent of millennials say they have no relationship with their PCP, while 23 percent do not even have one (Guttman, 2018).

A 2016 survey stated that over 50 percent of adults struggled to see a PCP during non-work hours, with wait times for appointments exceeding 29 days in certain areas of the country. The convenience of telehealth cuts wait times dramatically, allowing patients to be seen faster, potentially mitigating growing health concerns. If a patient is able to overcome the obstacles to receiving care, a majority of appointments involve fewer than 16 minutes of face-to-face time with a doctor, and many more minutes spent waiting (Guttman, 2018). Because telehealth eliminates much of the waiting and travel time, it can be presumed that patients will be more likely to invest the short amount of time necessary to communicate with a physician.

By investing in Telehealth, hospitals and hospital systems have the ability to increase efficiency exponentially. This will result in cost savings for the hospital administration, employers, and the patients themselves. Similarly, it will create a world in which medical care is accessible and convenient for all in need.

Sources

Guttman, D. (n.d.). 29 Statistics You Need To Know About Healthcare & Telemedicine. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.fshealth.com/blog/29-statistics-about-telemedicine-healthcare

What is Telehealth? (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://www.cchpca.org/what-is-telehealth

Salesforce Delivers ‘2016 Connected Patient Report’. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2016/06/160627/

Three CEOs share their visions for the future of telemedicine. (2017, April 28). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/three-ceos-share-their-visions-future-telemedicine

Cryts, A. (February 6, 2017). Four tech trends in healthcare in 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://managedhealthcareexecutive.modernmedicine.com/managed-healthcare-executive/news/four-tech-trends-healthcare-2017?page=0%2C0

Rehm, J. Telemedicine: The Cost-Effective Future of Healthcare. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://www.ajmc.com/contributor/john-rehm/2016/12/telemedicine-the-cost-effective-future-of-healthcare