Telehealth methods of care delivery have grown tremendously over the last 20 years. However, despite the growth of telehealth across the medical field, the use of telemedicine for neuromuscular or musculoskeletal outpatients remains less expansive. While historical use of telehealth for neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders has been limited, the access barriers faced by these patients combined with the high rates of clinician burnout in the specialty provides a robust opportunity for an expanded application of telehealth.
Of the nearly 500,000 end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients undergoing dialysis, only 12 percent receive dialysis in-home despite it being preferable and cost-effective to both patients and payers.[i] In a recent speech to kidney disease patients and advocates, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Alex Azar, stated that Medicare was making a concerted effort to expand the utilization of At-Home Dialysis, including expanding telehealth services.
In 2018, the CDC determined that one in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD in the United States. Often, children with autism and their families live too far away from care and support or cannot access it due to high costs, limited availability, and other circumstances. Telehealth can serve as a wonderful resource for the ASD patient and their family as it can be utilized for diagnosis, therapy/treatment, and caregiver education.
Over the past several months, significant changes surrounding telehealth and its role in healthcare have taken place. Changes include, CMS’ new, more generous reimbursement policies and several state laws spurring the progression of telehealth programs to address the opioid crisis. These changes reflect the greater movement towards telehealth as an affordable option to improve healthcare access and quality of care. To meet the rising demand for telehealth services, federal and state agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations, have expanded their grant funding for telehealth programs.
In recent years, the use of opioids has skyrocketed, drawing attention from all levels of government across the country. In 2016, the opioid-related overdose deaths reached an all-time high of over 42 thousand, prompting President Trump to declare a public health emergency.[i]
In the United States today, there are more than 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer's and other dementia, and the number is continually growing. As the baby boomer generation ages, the incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) will increase, not only affecting the lives of those living with the disease, but also the lives of caregivers and the healthcare system as a whole. Telehealth has great potential to improve the standard of care for patients living with Alzheimer's disease.
Telemedicine continues to grow as a solution to increase access to healthcare. Patients living in rural areas stand to gain immense benefits from telehealth because it can reduce barriers related to cost and travel. A recent study sought to demonstrate the efficacy of telehealth in reducing these burdens for patients with diabetes living in rural Georgia and Alabama.
Telehealth solutions are commonly used to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma, hypertension, and COPD, yet research on using telehealth for digestive diseases is lacking.
Research studies have shown a significant reduction in hospitalizations and use of other acute healthcare services for patients using telehealth. With a high cost of COPD and COPD exacerbation, hospital systems have turned to telehealth to help improve outcomes.
While the benefits of telehealth are well documented, best practices for telehealth have yet to be formally established. Telehealth users are often searching for best practices that will allow them to use telehealth to its fullest potential.