Are You Ready for Virtual Healthcare?

Geri Aston has written a fascinating cover story in the March 2015 issue of Hospitals & Health Networks magazine entitled “Telehealth Promises to Reshape Healthcare” (click to access it). In this well researched article, she is describing how some healthcare organizations are providing virtual services that take advantage of all of the digital tools we have come to rely on in other parts of our lives. She cites better patient experiences, improved care, and lower costs as key elements in this trend.

Patients Want It.

Ms. Aston cites statistics that nearly two-thirds of Americans would be willing to see a doctor by video, and a whopping 76% of patients would place a higher priority on access to care than on in-person interaction with their providers. Given the pace of technological change in recent years, and the ways in which this has changed everything from basic shopping to entertainment, this is not particularly surprising. People today (and in particular younger people) want things to be accessible via smartphone or tablet at their own convenience.

Do Hospitals Want It?

Currently, traditional reimbursement models are not supportive of telehealth services. In fact, providing such services could actually be bad for a healthcare organization’s top line revenue. Having said that, alternative reimbursement models that are based on avoiding unnecessary care and keeping people healthy will provide better incentives for hospitals and medical groups to provide virtual services as a cost saving measure.

What do YOU think?

Obviously, change like this will not come overnight. Do you feel this is an inevitable destination, or will there be pushback? What impacts are there likely to be? What changes are required?