Technology has transformed our lives in more ways than one. We rely on the Internet for instant entertainment, shopping for goods and services without leaving the house, and staying in touch with friends and family all over the globe.
We often turn to Google for answers to all types of questions — from where to eat out in the city to what medical condition the symptoms we’re experiencing are associated with. While the Internet is undoubtedly an incredible tool, at times, people forget that Google is not a licensed physician.
Self-diagnosis, based on the information you find online, often does more harm than good. A wrong interpretation of the symptoms and self-medication may exacerbate the problem and complicate the medical condition further. Still, there are times where an in-person visit to the doctor’s office is difficult due to the distance, limited patient mobility, or various other factors.
With limited accessibility to healthcare, especially in rural areas, and the shortage of healthcare professionals and specialists, getting the necessary medical care can be quite challenging. Medical professionals all over the world have recognized the possibilities of the Internet and have embraced modern technology to deliver healthcare services remotely.
Thanks to the advancement of telehealth, patients can now receive medical services without having to leave their homes. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what telehealth is, how it works, and what the main advantages it offers to both doctors and patients are.
What Is Telehealth?
There is no universal definition of telehealth. Different states in the U.S. and their respective medical boards define the term in half a dozen different ways. That said, there are a few characteristics of telehealth that remain true regardless of the wording of a particular law or policy.
The main aspects of telehealth are that it’s the practice of delivering healthcare services to patients remotely through the use of telecommunication technology. This is typically done through live, two-way video communication platforms, but there are a few states that also include audio-only (e.g., telephone calls) communication into their definition of telehealth.
Communication between a medical professional at a distant site and a patient at an originating site, using an interactive, live, two-way video platform
Transmission of medical information between two healthcare providers
Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
Leveraging hardware and software to record and transmit a patient’s medical information from an originating site to a distant site
There’s also the question of what types of medical services can be delivered via telehealth? To answer that question, we must introduce another, fairly similar term — telemedicine. Both refer to remote healthcare services, and the two are often used interchangeably. There is one major difference between the two terms, however.
While telemedicine often refers to examination, diagnosis, and treatment, telehealth is commonly associated with doctor-patient consultations and encompasses a wider range of healthcare services.
Telehealth today is often used to describe an array of diagnosis, management, healthcare education, remote patient monitoring, and various other fields of remote healthcare.
This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Home health
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Monitoring and management of chronic diseases
- Patient and medical professional education
At its core, telehealth pertains more to remote healthcare services rendered to patients with preexisting medical conditions, continuous monitoring and management of those conditions, and health education. It is often used to facilitate receiving medical care after the patients have already been examined, evaluated, and diagnosed in an in-person setting.
What Are the Main Benefits of Telehealth?
When most people think about the advantages of telehealth, the first thing that comes to mind is the accessibility of health care.
While this is the most obvious advantage of telehealth, there are many more benefits the remote delivery of healthcare services provides to both patients and medical professionals.
Benefits of Telehealth for Patients
All of the benefits telehealth provides to patients can fall into two categories:
- Saving time
- Saving money
When receiving medical care via telehealth, the distance between the patient’s home and the doctor’s office is no longer a factor. This is a major concern for patients in rural areas who would otherwise have to drive or commute for several hours before reaching a medical professional.
Some medical conditions require services from a medical specialist, who may be located in a different town, or even in a different state. In these events, patients would have to spend money on travel and hotel stays.
Telehealth cuts the cost of travel, and patients don’t have to worry about figuring out where to stay if the distance between them and the doctor is so great that it requires them to spend the night in a different city. This also eliminates the potential danger of traveling in poor weather conditions.
Another big concern of patients today is that they would have to take time off work to visit a medical professional. While taking the time to rest and let your body heal is certainly advisable for a wide variety of medical conditions, we’d often put work first and our health second. Some employers don’t offer sick days, leaving the people with the difficult choice between forgoing their health and getting a smaller paycheck at the end of the month.
Given that medical bills can often be astronomical, most people put off seeking medical care until their condition becomes severe. Telehealth offers a much better alternative, allowing patients to receive the necessary medical care in minutes, without having to take an entire day or days off work.
Curogram is a telemedicine and telehealth platform designed to streamline the delivery of remote healthcare services and allow doctors and patients an easy way to communicate at a distance. With Curogram, patients can join a virtual appointment through a link they receive in an SMS and get the required medical care from licensed healthcare professionals in a matter of minutes.
Benefits of Telehealth for Medical Professionals & Facilities
Doctors and medical facilities stand to benefit a lot from embracing telehealth. By leveraging modern telecommunications solutions, healthcare professionals can offer their services to more patients in an efficient manner.
Here are the top five benefits of telehealth for medical professionals and medical facilities:
- Improving access to medical care and reaching more patients
- Increasing revenue
- Improving workflows and increasing practice efficiency
- Reducing patient no-shows
- Facilitating remote patient monitoring
Improving Access to Medical Care and Reaching More Patients
The shortage of physicians and medical specialists is becoming an increasing problem in the United States. That’s why most states have embraced telemedicine and telehealth in an attempt to expand access to medical care and allow patients to reach their primary care physicians and medical specialists regardless of their location.
One of the major impacts of telehealth for healthcare professionals is the ability to see rural patients. From a business standpoint, it makes little sense for specialists like psychologists, psychiatrists, audiologists, and dermatologists to operate in rural areas with extremely small markets. Yet the fact remains that these people require specialist services as much as patients in urban areas.
Telehealth introduces a new business model and helps medical professionals and specialists expand their patient base by allowing them to offer their services to patients in even the most remote corners of their state.
Embracing telehealth helps reduce practice overhead, given that the cost of a telehealth visit is typically way less than that of an in-person visit. The cost reduction mainly comes from diverting patients from unnecessary emergency room visits.
Expanding your offer to include remote healthcare services will inevitably make your practice more profitable. As we’ve mentioned, you’ll be able to reach a wider patient base, and patients will be way less likely to forgo a doctor’s appointment since telehealth removes distance barriers, and represents a more affordable and convenient option.
Telehealth can also provide your practice with a competitive edge, given that new, tech-savvy generations are far more likely to opt for a healthcare provider that keeps up with technological advancements and offers them to receive medical care from their desktops, phones, and tablets.
Medical facilities will also lose fewer patients to out-of-network transfers, thus retaining their revenue. Remote consultation with a specialist can help you safely determine whether a transfer to an out-of-network facility is necessary. A great example of this is a pilot project at San Diego’s North County Health Services, which shed light on the fact that 65% of specialist referrals were unnecessary when doctors had access to a telehealth consultation platform.
Improving Workflows and Increasing Practice Efficiency
When implemented correctly, telehealth can help improve your practice’s workflows and increase efficiency.
By obtaining patients’ medical information in advance of the virtual visits, telehealth allows you to prioritize healthcare delivery and triage each case. Curogram automatically sends electronic patient intake forms a few days in advance of the scheduled virtual appointment.
This way, you’ll have all the necessary medical information beforehand and can organize your doctors and medical staff better, or advise in-person care if the patient’s condition necessitates a physical examination.
In addition, Curogram integrates with over 700 EHRs and saves a ton of valuable time your doctors and medical staff would otherwise have to spend on manually entering the medical information into your electronic health record.
Curogram EHR integrations
Curogram enables you to create your virtual clinic and start seeing patients in less than 48 hours! The virtual clinics you create with Curogram are outfitted with waiting rooms. Our management tools enable your staff to quickly onboard the patient and facilitate patient check-in and check-out.
Available doctors can see each patient’s status in the waiting room and go in and out of video calls quickly, without having to spend 15 minutes per visit onboarding the patients. This allows each doctor to admit up to 40 remote patients daily, which results in a significant increase in your practice’s revenue.
Reducing Patient No-Shows
In an in-person setting, no-shows can cause a significant loss of revenue. This is especially true for medical professionals and facilities rendering healthcare services to patients in rural areas. Given the fact that a six-hour drive to the doctor’s can be quite a hassle, it’s understandable why patients often opt to skip their scheduled appointment.
Still, that doesn’t solve the problem of practices struggling with idling due to a large number of no-shows. Scheduling two appointments at the same time is out of the question, yet you cannot phone a patient and tell them to come in at a moment’s notice, given the distance. If half a dozen patients don’t show up for their appointments each day, your doctors and medical staff will waste their time idling, and you’ll lose a good portion of your revenue.
How does telehealth solve this problem? While telehealth offers a lot more flexibility regarding rescheduling, enabling patients to attend a doctor’s appointments remotely doesn’t reduce no-shows by default. They might still forget that they have an appointment that day, ask to reschedule at the last minute, or simply change their mind and opt not to show up.
You’ll need a proper telehealth solution with built-in capabilities that enable you to proactively engage with your patients and adapt to changes in your calendar. Curogram allows you to create templated HIPAA compliant text messages and send out appointment reminders to your patients as SMS. They can simply respond via SMS if they need to reschedule, cancel the appointment, or if they have any inquiries.
On top of that, you can configure when and how often you want to send out reminders. You can send a few to each patient:
- A few days in advance
- On the day of the appointment
- An hour or 15–20 minutes before the appointment
This way, patients have several instances where they can reschedule or cancel the appointment, giving you plenty of time to adjust your calendar and schedule a different visit at that time, ensuring maximum efficiency of your practice.
The automated reminders feature helped practices that leverage our platform to deliver telemedicine and telehealth services reduce no-shows by 75 percent!
Facilitating Remote Patient Monitoring
One of the modalities of telehealth is remote patient monitoring (RPM). Modern telecommunications technology enables healthcare professionals to monitor patients with chronic health conditions remotely, giving them valuable insight into the patient’s condition at all times.
This improves RPM patient engagement between clinical visits and enables healthcare professionals to react promptly when immediate medical care is necessary. Telehealth also makes follow-ups for RPM patients easier and much more convenient, allowing them to improve the outcomes of medical care for these patients, while simultaneously cutting the costs.
Modern telehealth devices can record and report all manner of medical data without requiring the patient to stay at the medical facility, while at the same time allowing healthcare professionals to provide the necessary medical advice remotely.
Potential Drawbacks of Telehealth
Although telehealth is a great way to improve access to medical care, expand your patient base, and increase the revenue of your practice, it does come with a few potential drawbacks.
The two major concerns when embracing telehealth are:
- Regulatory and industry barriers
- Telehealth equipment and technology
Regulatory and Industry Barriers
Different states in the U.S. have vastly different regulations regarding telemedicine and telehealth. You will need to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws, rules, regulations, and policies regarding remote healthcare delivery before you embrace telehealth.
We’ve written detailed articles providing a summary of telemedicine and telehealth laws for each state, and we wholeheartedly recommend checking out the one for the state you’re in.
The crucial questions you’ll need to answer before you get started with telehealth are:
- Are you eligible to provide remote healthcare services?
- What rules and regulations do you need to abide by?
- How will you be reimbursed for telehealth services?
Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that you must comply with HIPAA Rules & Standards when delivering remote medical care. Given the fact that you’ll be sharing protected health information (PHI), you can’t simply use any video platform like Zoom or Skype to conduct virtual appointments. Apart from the fines for HIPAA Rules violations being astronomical, data breaches and confidentiality violations can severely damage the reputation of your practice.
That’s why we’ve made sure Curogram is fully HIPAA compliant and comes with built-in safeguards that ensure you’re practicing telehealth in a 100% secure environment. We’ve handled all the technical details, so both you and your patients can have peace of mind knowing that sensitive medical information is adequately protected.
Telehealth Equipment and Technology
Telehealth relies on a number of software and hardware devices to facilitate remote patient care. This hardware and software is often costly and can require an IT expert to set up and additional training to use. There’s also the fact that some patients, especially the older generations, might have trouble using complex telehealth software.
With Curogram, all of the platform’s capabilities are at your disposal from the get-go. What’s more, you can handle everything — from doctor-patient communication and sharing medical information to providing remote care to patients — from a single dashboard.
Curogram is also incredibly easy for patients to use. They don’t have to bother with downloading apps, setting up an account, figuring out a dozen different options, or anything like that. They’ll simply receive a link to join the online appointment via SMS. After clicking the link, they’ll be redirected to your virtual waiting room, where an available doctor can initiate a video call with them once they’re ready. It doesn’t get any easier than this!
Have a Successful Telehealth Start with Curogram
Remote medical care has proven to be a necessity in the United States. Leveraging modern telecommunications technology has dramatically improved access to health care for millions of Americans and eliminated a plethora of problems associated with the distance between doctors and patients.
If you want to make the transition to telehealth or include remote medical care in the services your practice offers — Curogram is the perfect solution.
But don’t just take our word for it — request a free demo today, and see for yourself!