AMERICAN TELEMEDICINE ASSOCIATION
WHAT IS TELEMEDICINE?
Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.Starting out over 40 years ago with demonstrations of hospitals extending care to patients in remote areas, the use of telemedicine has spread rapidly and is now becoming integrated into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices as well as consumer’s homes and workplaces.
Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by healthcare institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services. ATA has historically considered telemedicine and telehealth to be interchangeable terms, encompassing a wide definition of remote healthcare. Patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers, among other applications, are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealh. Read the complete article.
Tommy G. Thompson, Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Chief Executive Officer of Thompson Consulting Group
Donald Arthur, MD, Vice Admiral, U. S. Navy, retired, 35th Surgeon General of the Navy
Richard Boxer, MD, Chair of National Health Policy Council
To much of the public telehealth/telemedicine may be a completely new concept, or at least fairly unknown. The following articles and papers by well respected research organizations provide an explanation of what telehealth/telemedicine is all about and how it can benefit you.
The Staff at Unique Health Benefits
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Telephone-based medical care delivered by fully trained and qualified primary care physicians has become a staple of healthcare delivery throughout the United States. As the marketplace demonstrates its continued confidence in this mainstream model, the growing use of telephone-based consultations -- particularly for physician cross-coverage -- promotes more efficient interactions between patients and providers. Telehealth primary care doctors include family practice physicians, internal medicine physicians, and emergency medicine physicians. Increased reliance upon this proven method for delivering health services is already generating significant cost savings for plan sponsors and benefits payers and will favorably impact access to care for individuals living in rural and urban settings. Both public an d private sectors are highly receptive to the concept with accelerated adoption rates tied to the increased focus on healthcare consumerism, more timely access to services, and ongoing pressures to reduce healthcare expenditures. Currently, over 1.5 million Americans enjoy access to these services.
ALL ABOUT TELEMEDICINE
Current Telemedicine Technology Could Mean Big Savings
Towers Watson expects a 68% increase in the number of employers offering telemedicine in 2015
VA, August 11, 2014 — Telemedicine could potentially deliver more than $6 billion a year in health care savings to U.S. companies, according to analysis by global professional services company Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW). An illustration of the program’s possibilities, achieving this level of savings would require all employees and their dependents to use the technology-enabled interactions available today in place of face-to-face visits to the doctor, urgent care center or emergency room (for appropriate medical problems).
“While this analysis highlights a maximum potential savings, even a significantly lower level of use could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings,” said Dr. Allan Khoury, a senior consultant at Towers Watson. “Achieving this savings requires a shift in patient and physician mindsets, health plan willingness to integrate and reimburse such services, and regulatory support in all states.”
Thirty-seven percent of employers surveyed said that by 2015 they expect to offer their employees telemedicine consultations as a low-cost alternative to emergency room or physician office visits for nonemergency health issues, and another 34% are considering offering telemedicine for 2016 or 2017. Currently, 22% of employers offer such programs. The percentage of employers offering telemedicine is expected to rise from 22% to 37%, a 68% increase. These percentages are based on Towers Watson’s 2014 Health Care Changes Ahead Survey of U.S. employers with at least 1,000 employees.
It is expected that the use of telemedicine will continue to increase, driven by lower costs of telemedicine technology itself and by more insurance companies supporting telemedicine to cut costs. However, even among employers that offer such programs, utilization is low. Khoury says that vendors generally claim per-member utilization of less than 10%.
“With both insurance companies and employers encouraging its use, telemedicine is going to have a growing role in the spectrum of health care service delivery. We’re also likely to see that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Telemedicine is just one piece of a broader telehealth spectrum that includes video, apps, kiosks, virtual visits, wearable devices and other advancements,” concluded Khoury.
About Towers Watson
Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has more than 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at towerswatson.com.
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2014 Telemedicine Survey Executive Summary by Foley & Lardner LLP
As health care executives transform operations to comply with the Affordable Care Act, they are gearing up for the next monumental shift in the industry: telemedicine.
Technology has influenced nearly every sector of the economy, and the health care industry is following suit. Among telemedicine’s many benefits are the potential to exponentially expand a provider’s geographic footprint, use doctors’ time more efficiently and dramatically reduce the barriers to patient interaction.
Executives Are Embracing Telemedicine
Telemedicine is not a distant possibility; it is here and in play now. The vast majority of leaders (90 percent) report that their organizations have already begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program. Most also say that offering meaningful telemedicine services will be critical to the future success of their organizations.
Insurers Face New Challenges With the U.S. Affordable Care Act
Business Models Need to Adapt to the Rush of Change
Greater demand for health care and technology advancements will change the way health care is delivered and monitored. Telemedicine, using devices such as smartphones and tablets, will enable health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients remotely rather than in clinical settings. Telemedicine will be facilitated by the growing acceptance and use of electronic health records (EHRs), portable data collected and stored from all of a patient's providers that is readily accessible by authorized medical professionals and health care organizations. EHRs have the potential to prevent overlap or missed information that can seriously impact a patient's care.
The ACA's reduction of the fee schedule for Medicare professionals not using EHRs pushed the technology's implementation. However, EHRs' own merits — reduced miscommunication and the improved quality of outcomes — will encourage widespread adoption over time. Read the complete article.
It is estimated that more than $18 billion could be saved annually if those patients whose medical problems are considered “avoidable” or “non-urgent” were to take advantage of primary or preventive health care and not rely on ERs for their medical needs.
*Unique Health Benefits (UHB) Telehealth Plan provides 24/7/365 access to board-certified doctors anywhere, anytime, via phone or online video, for one low monthly membership fee for the immediate family. Members can use as often as needed with no additional charge per call.
The following chart shows the differences in costs for some common medical conditions.