Telehealth offers a remote healthcare solution that can reduce the cost of care and lower hospital readmissions for patients, thus enhancing the quality of care. Monitoring patient vitals, providing medication reminders, and facilitating virtual communication with physicians increases patient engagement, allowing patients to take charge of their health.
Telehealth programs can be easily adapted to fit a patient’s disease state, independence level, and other personal factors. These programs can also decrease the burden on physicians. When patients have the resources to take charge of their health, they are more conscious of irregularities in their conditions. Additionally, the information available to physicians allows them to better track the health of their patients and intervene before critical problems arise. This decreases the frequency of unnecessary hospital readmissions and disease exacerbations.
How Does Telehealth Work?
There are several telehealth models that can be used, depending on the patient population. Providing a tablet with peripheral devices that can track disease specific symptoms keeps patients, nurses, and doctors on the same page with regards to a patient’s health. Telehealth software can include educational material, vital sign monitoring, medication reminders, communication, and wound imaging features. When patients take their blood pressure or weight, these metrics are sent to their physicians. This allows the patient's clinical team to identify and treat abnormal results as soon as possible.
Alternatively, tablet only programs allow patients to use their own peripheral devices and manually enter their readings into the software. Once independence is established, patients can step down to a mobile phone option, giving them the convenience of monitoring their symptoms without the extra equipment.
Is it Cost Effective?
One of the chief goals of a telehealth program is cost reduction for patients and physicians. For patients, a decrease in healthcare costs is essential to managing the financial burden of healthcare visits. For physicians, a return on investment is crucial to the success and stability of the program.
Telehealth allows patients to manage their health and be proactive about solving issues before they arise. This decreases the number of exacerbations for patients with chronic conditions. Patients are admitted to the hospital less frequently, saving additional costs from emergency room or urgent care visits. Additionally, many patients rely on relatives or caregivers to take them to follow up appointments, so videoconferencing and messaging features make it possible to conduct these appointments from the comfort of the patient’s home. As a result, the patient can significantly reduce time and cost related to transportation.
Physicians who care for patients with chronic conditions tend to spend most of their time checking and double checking that their patients are maintaining their health. Telehealth software can provide updates on a patient’s vitals and symptoms in real time, keeping the physician updated on the patient's status.
Telehealth programs allow physicians to reach a greater number of patients in a shorter amount of time. For physicians who make house calls to patients, this decreases their time on the road and increases the time they spend doing what they love: interacting with the patient. This type of technology can expand the patient base of the practice, while also optimizing time.
What Conditions Can be Treated?
Telehealth is of great benefit to patients with diabetes, COPD, CHF, and high blood pressure because these are chronic conditions that require consistent management. Monitoring vital signs in patients with chronic conditions gives patients the opportunity to be proactive about their health. However, it is also important to recognize that there are many other patient populations that can reap benefits from telehealth interventions too.
For example, telehealth can also improve outcomes for behavioral health patients. Video conferencing features allow for an easier scheduling process with behavioral healthcare professionals. These services can also be beneficial for patients who exhibit symptoms of depression due to their chronic conditions. Telehealth gives these patients the opportunity to receive all the benefits of visiting their physician, but without leaving their home.
Does it Improve Patient Engagement?
In the shift towards value-based healthcare, patient engagement has become essential in the management of chronic conditions. For many patients, staying motivated in managing their health can be a challenge. When a patient can easily access their physician through video calls or messages, they will be less frustrated and more encouraged to ask questions and participate in their care. Monitoring equipment allows patients to track important metrics, thus creating healthy habits that keep them out of the hospital.