3 Ways Telehealth Can Transform Your Health System

October 3, 2017 By: Tim Wright, VP of Strategy, InTouch Health

As healthcare transitions from the traditional fee-for-service and brick-and-mortar models, to the value-based care and virtual clinics models, many health systems are using telemedicine to transform their organizations. Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health went so far as to say, “At Thomas Jefferson, we don’t plan to build another bed, but we are going to move from a hospital company to a consumer health company.” While other health systems may not be as ready to abandon traditional brick-and-mortar thinking as Klasko, according to a recent Becker’s Hospital Review survey, 83% of organizations view telehealth as a high priority[1]. Here are three ways telehealth can transform your health system.

1. Increase Patient Acquisition

As hospitals struggle to contend for patients, expanding your catchment area is key to staying competitive. Whether it’s opening a new clinic, or reaching farther into your region, or creating online patient portals, telemedicine helps patients find and engage with health systems previously unavailable to them. Concurrent to expanding your reach, telehealth helps keep patients in your system, even if they move because telehealth removes time and distance barriers. This means telehealth works two-fold by simultaneously increasing your patient reach, and reducing your network leakage.

2. Improved Quality

One way to improve the quality of care is getting the right patients in front of the right provider. With telehealth, specialist productivity can improve 100%[2], increase specialist access 16x[3], treatment rates increase 4x[4], and improve treatment speed 6x[5]. With telemedicine, you can expand your health system’s reach to a multitude of care settings to intersect with patients where they are, without burdening them with travel times and costs. With telehealth, the right specialist can be accessed in ambulatory settings, skilled nursing facilities, and even the patient’s home, ensuring patients get appropriate care in the appropriate setting. Furthermore, across all these disparate locations, telehealth allows health systems to standardize workflows and drive best practices across the continuum of care. And finally, telehealth can enable data driven outcomes to track success and see improvement across a multitude of channels.

3. Reduce Costs

By reducing the reliance on brick and mortar strategies – as Klasko mentioned above – and leveraging virtual physician resources, health systems can improve healthcare delivery efficiency. For example, inpatient telemedicine solutions can significantly reduce patient length of stay. Increasing the speed to proper diagnosis and treatment drives down the total cost of care. Ambulatory and online telemedicine can reduce costs by decreasing unnecessary emergency department visits and readmissions.

Reducing costs is not just a perk for the health system, however, as patients too will take advantage of the reduced travel distance and costs that eat up much of their time and budgets. Also, by increasing patient access to specialists, you are providing the right care the first time, further decreasing the patient burden of seeing numerous providers, spread out across the region. In short, by aligning patient care with the most appropriate care setting, everyone wins, leading to happier patients and providers.

All three benefits telehealth brings health systems – higher quality, greater access, and lower cost – are part of the triple aim goal. By simultaneously developing and improving these three dimensions of the patient experience, telehealth can truly transform your health system, and healthcare as a whole.

 

[1] http://go.beckershospitalreview.com/2016-consumer-telehealth-survey-results

[2] InTouch Health user focus group, 7/2015

[3] 2015 average number of simultaneous on-call locations per physician user for InTouch Health network customers

[4] Average tPA treatment rate for mature InTouch Telestroke locations compared to national average treatment rate

[5] Average published response time improvement (Dignity Health, UCLA, HealthOne, and others)