Could you benefit from an integrated telemedicine EHR?

Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to offer remotely to patients who do not have immediate access to a doctor, usually via telephone or video. The Center for Connected Health Policy defines telemedicine as conducting “clinical diagnosis and monitoring that is delivered by technology.”

Many EHRs now have telemedicine capabilities in their system which allow a practice expanded opportunities to provide healthcare services to their regular patients and potentially serve hard to reach patients who may not have been able to use their services previously  

Telemedicine’s role in cost savings

As healthcare costs continue to rise, and as shortages of medical providers are a reality in many areas, telemedicine technology serves as a method of delivering care, which controls costs while maintaining the quality of health care services.

A 2015 peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on the benefits of telemedicine makes the case that telemedicine can facilitate care over a distance, reduce the time needed for diagnosis, improve access to hard to reach patients, improve quality of life, and improve patient satisfaction. Further, the article noted that telemedicine can potentially make healthcare workers more efficient by reducing reduce non-urgent office visits and health care encounters.

Find EHRs with telemedicine functionality with this interactive online comparison

A study conducted of the Hospital at Home program, a telemedicine program focusing on elderly patients with compromised immune systems affirms telemedicine’s cost savings potential. Data collected on the program showed a total savings of 32% on cost care when comparing telemedicine patients with none-telemedicine patients on the program.   

Telemedecine’s role in quality improvement

Another argument for introducing telemedicine services rests in its cost-saving potential. Some studies have found that monitoring patients at home avoid referrals and hospitalizations as access to relevant patient information and medical expertise to support local decisions can avoid expensive hospital visits.

Moreover, avoided referrals and visits have the potential to reduce costs associated with seeking medical help. A study of enrollees in the California Public Employees Retirement System evaluated the impact on utilization of providing physician consultations via telemedicine.

Comparing telemedicine users with non-telemedicine users, the study found telemedicine patients were less likely to require a follow-up visit in comparison to individuals who received their initial consult for a similar condition in the emergency department (ED) or a physician’s office. Only 6% of telemedicine visits resulted in a follow-up visit compared to 13% of patients who saw a provider in person in an office visit and 20 percent of patients who saw a provider in the emergency department.

Traditionally, telemedicine has been used as a way to provide services in remote rural areas where patients could not easily reach their provider. With the advent of telemedicine technology being more widely available in EHRs, providers are now exploring its use in everyday practice as a cost and quality improvement measure.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green