As with any new emerging healthcare service, there are pros and cons. The question with telehealth becomes, can it be a profitable model that positions both the patient and the medical provider to reap the benefits. Here are the reasons why telehealth can and will be a profitable option well into the future.
While 76% of hospital systems are turning to telehealth as an option to better serve their patients, not everyone is convinced. As a low-cost medical service for patients, can healthcare providers really make money from offering this service?
When you examine the overarching benefits that telehealth provides, it becomes clear that telehealth can and will be a highly profitable service offering for healthcare organizations.
The Benefits of Telehealth
1. Cost savings drives more innovation. As healthcare consumerism is enabling patients to shop around before selecting a medical provider, having low-cost options that provide a high level of convenience they want is key. With the average telehealth appointment costing an estimated $49 compared to $350+ for traditional in-person visits, the cost savings are also passed on to the medical provider. Researchers have found that by implementing a telehealth program, one Florida transitional facility was able to save $1 million within the first year. These savings can then be reinvested in technology or to upgrade existing facilities.
2. Higher quality of care. When patients are able to both access the medical care they need in real-time and have the ability to leverage technology to manage their own healthcare outcomes, it is a win-win. Through offering telehealth, medical providers have been able to increase patient satisfaction scores, decrease the wait times by 40% for in-person visits, and offer more advanced treatments because they are able to reinvest the cost savings into expanding the level of care for all patients.
3. Greater access to more patients. With the commuting burden to go to in-person visits completely eliminated, hospital systems are able to reach a larger patient audience without having to open or maintain additional medical care sites. And, telehealth makes it possible to provide more comprehensive, wraparound healthcare to both rural populations and to patients with limited mobility. According to a study done by the Geisinger Health Plan, by giving patients direct support from medical staff, in an online setting, patient readmissions rates were 44% lower over 30 days and 38% lower after 90 days, compared to patients that did not have access to follow-up telehealth services.
4. Reduced doctor and medical staff burnout. By reducing the patient load to hospitals, doctors and their staff are better equipped to spend more time with in-person patients. And, with more time to focus on patients for in-person visits, experts anticipate that there will be a reduced number of misdiagnosis and medical errors. The challenge with telehealth will be in how doctors can leverage technology to make accurate “over the screen” diagnosis that patients can trust.
Telehealth has a host of cost savings and quality care benefits that it is giving both medical providers and patients. The thing to watch will be how this area evolves to redefine healthcare into the future.