Telemedicine Can Address the ‘Hidden Costs’ of Care
Washington, D.C. (April 4, 2018) – One of the great advantages of telemedicine is in its power to reduce barriers that often come with seeking face-to-face care. For the patient, there’s the financial and time costs of traveling to the office and sitting in the waiting room. For the doctor, there’s the cost of no-shows and limited capacity. Face-to-face care will always be important, but the technology exists to address many of these barriers and improve the efficiency of healthcare with telemedicine or telehealth. Leading minds in the industry discussed these opportunities – and the barriers to adoption – at the 2018 URAC Telemed Leadership Forum in Washington, DC.
Legal, Regulatory, and Policy Challenges
One of the largest obstacles facing telemedicine at the moment are the legal, regulatory, and policy challenges involved with introducing new technology in a complex system. First and foremost, more research is needed to show the economic value and health outcomes of telemedicine to inform policy and adoption, as discussed by Christa Natoli, Deputy Executive Director for the Center for Telehealth and eHealthLaw (CTeL). Over two dozen bills related to telemedicine have been presented to Congress just this year. The good news is that both sides of the aisle see its value.
The Opioid Crisis and Advantages of Telemedicine
In a session entitled “The Skyrocketing Opioid Crisis: Fighting an Uphill Battle with Telemedicine” Dr. Mark Plaster discussed the possible advantages of incorporating telemedicine practices into substance abuse treatments, specifically around opportunities to address the stigma that often comes with seeking treatment. Telemedicine can provide the privacy and anonymity that seeing a doctor in person often can’t. Speaking with the doctor from the comfort of their own home, patients can be more discrete and may even be more honest about their substance use. Additionally, the possibility exists to host truly anonymous support groups.
Improving Care Access in Behavioral Health
We are experiencing a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists. Stephen Ferrando, MD, Director of Psychiatry, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Behavioral Health Center detailed how 1 in 4 Americans will experience a mental health disorder, but less than 50% will have access to treatment due to this shortage of practitioners. Telepsychiatry can help bridge this gap, especially in rural areas that have traditionally lacked access to psychiatric care. And aside from access, telepsychiatry may even be preferable to in-person treatment for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum or for patients with anxiety disorders that have issues leaving their homes.
Moving Telemedicine Forward
In order to realize the true ‘ROI of Telehealth’ – as this year’s conference was aptly named – providers, payers, and technology innovators in the healthcare industry will need to continue to come together to test new approaches, build a strong evidence base, and advocate for access and adoption. At Envolve PeopleCare™ we are innovating with products such as our On.Demand diabetes management program and integrating our Nurse Advice Line with Telemedicine partners. We will continue to look for ways to help make healthcare more nimble as we tackle more barriers to better health.
Jodi serves as Envolve PeopleCare’s VP, Portfolio Management, leading the Product team’s efforts on our On.Demand diabetes management program. In previous roles she has led telemedicine integration for our Nurse Advice Line and worked directly with commercial and health plan customers in client services roles.
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