Wouldn’t it be great to have unlimited resources to improve patient quality of care? Sure, but that’s not a reality for most. Fortunately, it doesn’t require major funding or every new technology to take good care of patients.
VIRTUAL TECHNOLOGY IS ARRIVING
As of March 20th this year, 31 states and DC mandate private insurance coverage of telemedicine (aka parity laws), and 15 states and DC have Medicaid parity laws. Although not all states mandate private insurance coverage of the technology, the tide is turning as the industry realizes savings and sees better patient outcomes as a result of telemedicine. Regardless of the laws, providers and patients may reap benefits from using this technology through virtual office visits, virtual patient monitoring and virtual education.
Latest statistics show that patients are waiting an average of 24 days to schedule an appointment with a doctor, and it is expected to get worse. With a webcam and HIPAA-compliant software, providers can conduct virtual doctor visits for minor, routine and follow-up visits.
- Virtual visits allow providers to adjust available hours, increasing the doctor’s schedule flexibility and offering more in-office time for patients with more serious health concerns while reducing office wait times.
- Virtual visits allow providers to see patients that they may have ordinarily sent directly to the Emergency Room when triaging over the phone. For example, a person exhibiting chest pains may be experiencing heartburn or a panic attack, which may be determined by a physician through a virtual visit.
- Virtual visits eliminate unnecessary visits by overly concerned patients. For example, new parents often do not know what is “normal” for a newborn, and virtual visits can calm their worries and give them answers to their questions without having to make an office visit.
- Low acuity “sick” visits such as sinus infections, allergies, swimmers ear, upper respiratory tract infections, uncomplicated urinary tract infections, pink eye, colds, flu and insect bites
- Interim follow-up visits on conditions such as asthma, cellulitis or other rash that does not need follow-up in the doctor’s office
- Medication refills, either to bridge a prescription lapse until the next appointment or to review labs or imaging studies in cases where an in-person exam is unnecessary
One in four Americans suffers from multiple chronic conditions that will last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention. In those aged 65 years and up, 75 percent have multiple chronic conditions. With virtual monitoring, electronic devices can transmit patient health information digitally to the healthcare provider on an ongoing basis.
- Providing the patient with an easy way to transmit medical data, this technology has shown to improve patient compliance and aid the management of chronic conditions. Furthermore, knowing the doctor is receiving medical data, patients are more likely to comply with physician’s orders.
- Virtual monitoring allows the physician to intervene early and decrease morbidity for patients who may be non-compliant or apt to skip office appointments.
- Check and/or transmit a patient’s vital signs, blood pressure and electrocardiograms to help reduce the incidence of stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease
- Check and monitor blood sugar to manage diabetes, allowing the physician to make frequent, minor changes to medicines without the need for an office visit
Patients immediately forget 40-80 percent of medical information given to them, and they recall almost half of it incorrectly. Through online lessons and tutorials, webinars or other video conferencing, patients can get virtual educational and treatment information.
- On-demand, virtual education increases chances that patients follow medical instruction.
- Patients who are equipped with more information about their condition are better able to care for themselves and avoid potentially dangerous choices that affect their condition.
- Online consultations between physicians and specialists save time and prevent errors in diagnoses.
- Hospital readmissions are reduced.
- Virtual lessons to help patients with chronic conditions, allowing them on-demand education to better understand their health
- Virtual multi-disciplinary visits to teach patients about their condition (the physician covers the physical aspects of obesity while the dietician in another location coordinates a food plan)
- Virtual consultations between primary care physicians and specialists to learn how to better treat their patients and get second opinions
- Behavioral modification and education, such as smoking cessation programs, both live and through online learning modules
- Reinforcement of post-discharge and post-operative instructions
Virtual technology provides numerous benefits for patients and physicians, is increasingly more reimbursable and doesn’t require a major funding investment. Value-based provider payments pressure clinicians to improve and sustain their patients’ health despite the patients’ actions, so providers need to find new ways to increase patients’ understanding and willingness to comply. What are you doing to virtually improve patient outcomes? Share your experience with us on Facebook!