If there is one good thing about the Covid-19, it would be paying proper attention to the importance and efficacy of telemedicine. And we aren’t talking only about the technologies that allow its implementation but also the changes that the pandemic caused in terms of insurance.
Since 2020, Medicare has started covering more telehealth services, some of which at a lower rate. Seven US states mandate commercial insurers to cover more forms of telehealth care, and 22 of them took a closer look at the regulation of telehealth medicine coverage during the last two years. What does it have to do with the cost?
In fact, a lot.
These initiatives stimulate the broader provision of telehealth care and its accessibility for patients across the country. For physicians and providers, it might be a cost-effective solution to treat their patients and arrange their workflow. But that’s not the full list. In this article, we’ll cover how telehealth decreases healthcare costs and how it affects the quality of patients’ outcomes.
Ways The Telehealth Reduces Healthcare Costs
Telehealth is showing consistent, year-over-year growth. Think of it, in 2027 it’s expected to reach $559,52 billion in the USA. The current market size by revenue is $3.5 billion, and it’s predicted to increase by 9.6% by the end of the year. As the Federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid is increasing, it presents plenty of opportunities for the business. However, there is another side to it.
The USA is a leader among the countries for healthcare spending per person. Yes, it’s because of many economic factors but it’s still 42% higher than in Switzerland, the country with the next highest per-person spending. 18% of the country’s GDP goes for health spendings, and it’s projected to reach 20% by 2028.
U.S. health care expenditure from 2015 to 2020 by payer. Source: Statista
With the increasing coverage cost, struggling of low-income patients to access healthcare, and pandemic crisis, there is a need for decreasing the cost of healthcare provision without making it less effective. This is where the telemedicine industry steps in. So, how exactly does telehealth reduce costs?
Cut Travel-related Costs
And here it’s not about the patients only – it’s also about how much the at-home doctor’s visit can cost to the provider. Using telemedicine can optimize and prioritize emergency cases, cut transport and clinician travel costs, or avoid those at all if the in-person visit isn’t needed.
Perform Home-based Triage
Speaking when the clinician visit isn’t necessary. Televisits with primary care specialists and nurses can deliver the necessary consultations which, in many cases, is all the patient needs at that point. Or, the remote appointments may speed up the ambulance visit for the patients in critical condition.
Telehealth Reduces Healthcare Costs Associated with ER
Around ⅔ of emergency room visits could be substituted with the regular doctor’s appointment – and cost patients 12 times less. 71% of ambulance providers don’t accept insurance of any kind, which is why you will most likely spend over $450 for being taken to the ER for no emergent reason. Of course, it’s the patients’ wallet that will benefit the most, though, for the providers, it’s a surefire way to manage their staff and in-crisis patients more effectively.
Reduce Readmission Rate (and Costs)
The number of patients who return to the clinic after being discharged could be lowered if they undergo regular diagnostic and check-ups. The thing is, not every check-up should take place in the hospital – some require consultations that can be done over a phone or videoconferencing. With plenty of telemonitoring solutions and technologies, it’s not only possible to reduce the patients’ flow but also improve the care quality and outcomes.
Whether a patient has an implanted device that should be monitored, just got discharged from the hospital after the operation, or is during a high-risk pregnancy, monitoring of their conditions is important, and in most cases, it should be frequent. However, not all of it has to be done in the clinic – some monitoring practices may take place online and prove that home telehealth reduces healthcare costs. Here we wrote about the impact of telemonitoring for patients with heart failure and how you can implement it with Empeek.
Offer More Appointments
In many cases, the number of appointments the provider can offer its patients depends on the facility’s capacity. However, not every consultation or appointment presupposes screenings or tests the very first time – the only thing they need is a qualified professional who will listen to the patient’s concerns and advise the following actions. Telemedicine solutions and technologies will allow you to multiply the number of primary appointments and if you have EHR/EMR systems in place, it will simplify the paperwork and workflow management for doctors.
Now as we’ve covered what causes cost savings of telemedicine, let’s move to how the involved technologies and solutions enhance the patients’ outcomes.
How Telehealth Improves Health Outcomes
For many people, telehealth was the only available healthcare option during the pandemic. However, as the survey shows, many Americans will keep using it after because, alongside the convenience and telemedicine cost savings, there are plenty of other reasons.
Effective Healthcare Provision to Rural Residents
Telehealth solutions help the patients to stay connected with the healthcare providers regardless of their location. Online check-ups, videoconferencing consultations, and test interpretations can be provided without the patients going to the healthcare facility. Patients with chronic conditions or after hospital discharge should be supervised more often, and telehealth makes it possible without spending extra time or money for getting to the doctor’s office. From this perspective, telemedicine reduces healthcare costs on the patient’s end and provides them with more flexibility.
Fewer Barriers to Treatment
Many people find it difficult to manage their visit to a doctor for many reasons: unavailability of those who accept their insurance, need to take time-off, inability to travel long distances, and so on. Telemedicine eliminates most of these barriers as sometimes the only thing patients need is their smartphone/computer and some 30 minutes. The result? More consistent care.
Reduced Exposure to Diseases
With the medical crisis caused by COVID-19, fewer people are willing to go to the hospital even if they need to. With telehealth technologies, the providers can manage the patients’ flow and receive those who need the in-patient treatment. In this way, the clinics and offices will have fewer people on their premises thus eliminating the risk of spreading the diseases.
For older people or people with limited mobility, having access without external help is crucial not only to remain healthy and follow the treatment procedures but also to maintain confidence that they can do it themselves. This independence comes from getting the help they need in the ways they’re comfortable with, by themselves.
Easy and Comprehensive Treatment Planning
Most telehealth programs and platforms that the organizations use are known to the patients. This familiar approach is used for the patients to be actively involved in the treatment planning and following procedures. Plus, they can also be used by other medical specialists if any further intervention/consultation is needed.
Improved Medication Adherence
Following the treatment plan and taking the necessary medication is necessary to get the positive dynamics. The reality is that patients often forget to do it, which may affect the end result. The apps and reminders, refill notifications and educational information delivered to the patient’s phone can increase the likelihood of taking the prescribed medication timely and appropriately.
So, does telemedicine reduce costs? It does, and also it improves the quality, consistency, and availability of primary care for those groups of people who need it most. For providers, however, it can also be a cost-effective solution to organize their workflow, patient management, and service volume effectively. By now, you probably wonder how to reduce healthcare costs with telehealth solutions and which ones will fit your business the best. The Empeek team is here to help you find out. All you need to do is to contact us via email, phone, or this form.