Telemedicine Trends in 2018
Debra Wood, contributor
and patients have both embraced telemedicine, but barriers continue to exist
that thwart widespread adoption of this technology to provide clinical services
to patients remotely.
“Today most people look at
telemedicine through a very narrow lens of being used for low-risk healthcare:
think about looking at a rash, handling a prescription, etc.,” said Sean Banerjee,
chief technology officer of SOC Telemed, a national
provider of telemedicine technology for hospitals and health plans.
For instance, during the recent
flu outbreak, Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, North Carolina,
encouraged people with minor, nonlife-threatening symptoms to make use of the
health system’s Virtual Visit.
“It’s worth looking at the use
of telemedicine in acute care, which is proven to provide real, lifesaving
results,” Banerjee continued. “Telemedicine for acute care is saving people’s
lives on a daily basis by providing hospital systems access to specialists 24/7
in a way that would not be possible otherwise.”
indicated that specialists have well-established protocols for providing care
that leads to positive results. Stroke care is a prime example of how
telemedicine can positively affect outcomes. Multiple studies have shown its
benefits in the treatment of stroke patients.
“With the example of stroke care
in mind, acute telemedicine providers see so many stroke patients annually that
they can drive changes to protocols much more rapidly than previously possible
within health systems,” Banerjee said.
“Additionally, they can assess
the effects of these updated protocols across a wide range of hospitals
throughout the country. No one hospital could possibly treat the thousands of
stroke patients that other telemedicine providers see every year, and with such
a breadth of severity.”
An alternative to in-person visits
survey conducted for American Well in Boston, a provider of telemedicine
solutions, found that two-thirds of consumers were willing to receive care
through a video visit with a physician. Video visits offer patients greater
percent of those surveyed said that they would like their primary care provider
to offer video visits, and 20 percent said they would be willing to switch
providers to one who offered virtual visits.
health systems are offering telemedicine visits. Carolinas HealthCare offers
virtual visits 24 hours a day, seven days per week, with no appointment needed.
Patients pay $49, unless the person’s employer has contracted with the health
system for such visits. Patients must be located in North Carolina. Carolinas HealthCare System Urgent Care medical
professionals handle the visit.
A 2018 poll
by the Medical Group Management Association of nearly 1,300 medical practices
found 26 percent offering telemedicine services and 15 percent planning to do
so. Those not offering such services cited lack of physician buy-in, lack of
need and reimbursement issues for reasons.
a 2017 Foley & Lardner survey of 100 senior executives at
hospitals, specialty clinics and other healthcare organizations found 76
percent of those responding were offering telemedicine services or planned to
in the future. More than half indicated their programs were growing.
organizations offering telemedicine services do so through a telehealth company.
Barriers to widespread adoption
and reimbursement remain concerns associated with telemedicine. The Center for
Connected Health Policy’s fall 2017 report indicated that many states have
expanded telehealth Medicaid reimbursement while others restrict such services.
states, the telemedicine physician or other provider must be licensed in the
state where the patient is seeking treatment. A few state medical boards,
including Texas and Maine, have issued special telehealth licenses or
certificates. Several states have adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure
streamlines obtaining a license in participating states.
insurers cover telemedicine physician visits but others do not, presenting a
barrier. The Foley & Lardner survey found half of the executive respondents
considered third-party reimbursement the greatest implementation challenge,
even though three-quarters said they received some reimbursement for the
visits, but that it is typically less than in-person visit reimbursement.
Foley & Lardner report suggested that as pressure builds to offer
telemedicine services, payers will broaden their reimbursement for such
services and state and federal governments will decrease regulatory barriers.
telemedicine jobs for physicians remain in demand. Some are full-time positions,
while many are part-time, allowing physicians to supplement their income.
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