Telehealth: A Solution to Managing Scarce Physician Resources
How Telemedicine Can Help the Physician Shortage
The United States is experiencing an increasingly significant physician shortage. A recent study predicts the healthcare industry will be short around 120,000 physicians by 2030. The patient population is aging fast with the number of Americans over the age of 65 expected to double by 2040.
With fewer primary care physicians (PCPs), patients may have to rely on urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, and retail clinics, which often inflate the cost of care. Patients will no longer benefit from having one healthcare provider. Instead, they may have to see multiple care providers as they move from one facility to the next.
With fewer PCPs, patients may have to rely on urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, and retail clinics, which often inflate the cost of care. Patients will no longer benefit from having one healthcare provider. Instead, they may have to see multiple care providers as they move from one facility to the next.
Telehealth can reduce the burden placed on PCPs by reducing the cost of care, easing administrative barriers, and helping physicians see more patients throughout the day. Learn more about how telemedicine companies are combating the physician shortage.
How the Physician Shortage Impacts Patient Care
The presence of fewer PCPs will negatively affect patients across the country. Around 20% of Americans live in a primary care shortage area. Additionally, only 37% of doctors practice primary care, yet 56% of office visits are completed by this group of physicians.
With fewer physicians and those that are in practice spending more time on the phone, patients will have limited access to PCPs. Adding more PCPs improves preventive care, increasing the chances of an early diagnosis. This increases the patient’s chances of survival and reduces the overall cost of care by treating conditions and illnesses before they lead to more serious issues. Adding one primary care physician per 10,000 population reduces mortality by 5.3%, avoiding 127,617 deaths annually.
Using Telehealth to Ease the Burden on Physicians
Telehealth services can help expand patient access to care without overburdening primary care providers. The PCP shortage tends to be the most severe in rural areas. Patients in these areas can use telehealth to quickly consult with a physician from the comfort of their own home without having to drive long distances. This improves their access to preventive care, so they can better manage their condition or symptoms and avoid ending up in the emergency room.
Physicians can also use remote patient monitoring (RPM) to quickly keep track of their patients without bringing them in for an appointment. If anything changes with the patient’s condition, the physician can immediately request a test or procedure without seeing the patient in person. This reduces administrative costs, helping PCPs do their jobs more efficiently.
Medicare is also working on a new plan that would allow patients to get reimbursed for telehealth services at home instead of forcing them to go to a local community healthcare facility. In fact, legislation in 2018, such as the Bipartisan Budget Act, included new flexibilities for telehealth, and more are expected to pass this year. This will increase telehealth adoption rates across the country, further expanding patient access to care and increasing their choices in the marketplace. This is good news for physicians that need help managing large patient populations.
Top telemedicine companies continue improving their telehealth services to better meet the needs of their patients. As these services become increasingly available to patients, physicians can reduce the cost of care and use their resources more efficiently.