Telemedicine has garnered a lot of attention during the COVID-19 emergency. Leveraging modern technology to deliver healthcare services remotely has proven to be a much-needed alternative to in-person doctor’s appointments.
It’s not only during a pandemic or similar emergencies that patients will appreciate the opportunity to reach their doctors online. There are a number of reasons why telemedicine is a necessity rather than a luxury.
People may be geographically isolated from the doctors, meaning that patients in rural areas likely have to drive for a few hours or even stay in a different city overnight in order to receive the required medical care.
They might even be without transportation or too sick to travel. There’s also the issue with the lack of specialists in some areas, which can increase the cost of medical care for patients further.
The main reasons why telemedicine is becoming more widely-used are:
- It improves access to healthcare
- It reduces the costs that patients incur
- It allows healthcare professionals to retain existing and attract new patients
The first iteration of modern telemedicine started back in the ‘50s when doctors would rely on telephone communication to share information with specialists when treating the same patient. With the advent of the Internet, new capabilities for delivering remote healthcare services arose. Now, a virtual doctor’s appointment is pretty much on par with an in-person encounter.
Healthcare professionals and medical facilities all over the world are leveraging modern technology to facilitate the delivery of healthcare services. If you’re considering upgrading your patient services and embracing telemedicine as well, there are a few things you should consider.
Here are the pros and cons of telemedicine to help you make an informed decision and determine whether your practice can benefit from treating patients over the Internet.
Advantages of Telemedicine
The use of modern telecommunications technology provides various benefits to both patients and doctors. Let’s take a look at all the advantages telemedicine provides to both sides so that we can understand the impact it has on modern healthcare better.
Telemedicine Benefits for Patients
The ability to be examined, diagnosed, and treated online offers the following benefits to patients:
- Improves access to doctors and specialists
- Is much more convenient
- Saves time and money
- Increases patient engagement and improves satisfaction
- Improves patient care quality
It Improves Access to Doctors and Specialists
The distance and the travel time between a patient and a doctor can drastically limit access to health care. In rural areas of the United States, there are fewer than 50 specialists available for every 100,000 people.
This means that rural patients often have to:
- Drive long distances
- Spend several hours in the waiting rooms
- Find a way to overcome limited access to advanced medical care
Apart from geographically isolated patients, people with disabilities and older populations may find it difficult to receive the necessary medical care outside of the big cities, where doctors and medical specialists are scarce and spread too thin.
Telemedicine completely removes all distance barriers. It gives doctors and specialists the opportunity to provide remote medical care to patients in the most remote areas of the country, as well as to patients who might find it difficult to come in for an in-person examination — whether due to their condition or other circumstances outside of their control.
It Is Much More Convenient
One of the main appeals of telemedicine and telehealth, from a patient’s perspective, is convenience. With the use of modern technology, patients can receive the required medical care without ever having to leave their homes. All they need is a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet, and a stable internet connection.
Most people dread the long waiting times, and it’s not uncommon for them to forgo the appointment or self-medicate, which could further complicate their condition.
Telemedicine gives them a great alternative — they can schedule the appointment with a single click or tap on their phone, and only dedicate half an hour to attend the virtual appointment. With Curogram, patients even get automated appointment reminders as SMS, so they don’t have to worry about forgetting the scheduled video call with the doctor.
As the telemedicine industry grows and more and more healthcare providers start offering these services, patients are slowly becoming accustomed to this level of convenience. Newer, tech-savvy generations especially appreciate this modernization of healthcare and are much more likely to choose a provider that offers telemedicine services.
It Saves Time and Money
Let’s not beat around the bush — healthcare in the United States is quite expensive. Add travel expenses on top of astronomical medical bills, and it becomes easy to understand why a lot of people opt not to visit the doctor’s office until their medical condition becomes critical.
Another thing to consider is the fact that most people have to take days off from work to come in for a physical appointment. Unless their sick days are paid in full by the company, most people would rather show up for work, even if it's obvious that they require medical attention, because they can’t afford the pay cut.
With telemedicine, they can schedule an appointment at the most convenient time, and get the proper diagnosis and treatment without having to skip work, arrange childcare, or otherwise disrupt their schedule.
It Increases Patient Engagement and Improves Satisfaction
There are various reasons why patients may avoid seeking medical care. Apart from the long wait times, the time they’d need to dedicate, and all the secondary expenses, they might also be embarrassed by their medical condition.
According to the survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health, over a third of the responders reported unfavorable evaluation process as the main reasons for avoiding health care.
How can telemedicine help solve these problems? Telemedicine removes many of the barriers that prevent people from seeking medical care, such as time constraints and expenses, while simultaneously increasing engagement. With telemedicine, patients don’t feel as disconnected from their healthcare providers — the medical professionals are more available and easier to reach.
When a patient can contact their doctor from their phone, rather than dedicating the time and money to visit them in person, they’ll be much more inclined to commit to their own healthcare goals, report early warning signs, and make follow-up appointments.
Curogram is a comprehensive telemedicine solution that provides a two-way messaging platform that facilitates doctor-patient communication. With Curogram, patients will always feel connected with their healthcare providers.
Once you confirm that they’ve scheduled an appointment, they'll receive an SMS with a link to join your virtual clinic at the given time. They can send an SMS if they need to reschedule, or if they have any questions regarding their medical condition, which is why HIPAA compliant texting is a core feature of any telemedicine solution,
Patients love the convenience and flexibility telemedicine offers, as well as the ability to communicate with their healthcare providers in real-time. This drastically improves patient satisfaction and can have a huge positive impact on the reputation of your practice, helping you retain existing and attract new patients.
It Improves Patient Care Quality
Another huge advantage of telemedicine for patients is the ability to receive real-time urgent medical care. Rather than spending several hours commuting and waiting at a medical facility, patients can connect with healthcare providers almost instantly and get treatment options within minutes.
The timely delivery of medical care is critical for a variety of conditions. For instance, if an acute issue occurs, patients no longer have to rush to make it to an urgent care center or an emergency room (which can be quite costly), but can instead attend a virtual appointment with a specialist.
In addition, telemedicine encounters can eliminate the need for unnecessary hospital admissions, greatly reducing the patient’s medical bill.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Managed Care shows that patients receiving remote medical care:
- Had 38% fewer hospital admissions
- Had 31% fewer hospital readmissions
- Were 63% more likely to spend fewer days in the hospital
- Were generally more engaged in their healthcare
Telemedicine Benefits for Doctors and Medical Facilities
Healthcare professionals and medical facilities stand to gain a lot from embracing modern telecommunications technology and offering remote healthcare services.
The biggest benefits telemedicine provides to doctors and medical facilities include:
- Reduces overhead costs and saves money
- Expands the patient base and increases revenue
- Reduces patient no-shows
- Improves workflows
- Lowers exposure to illness and infection
It Reduces Overhead Costs and Saves Money
Healthcare providers who offer telemedicine services may incur fewer overhead costs. The typical cost of a telemedicine visit is lower than the cost of an in-person encounter. In addition, there are significantly fewer no-shows in telemedicine compared to in-person encounters.
Embracing telemedicine also helps reduce unnecessary, non-urgent visitors to the emergency room, as well as eliminates the transportation expenses associated with regular checkups.
To give you a better idea of just how much money your practice can save if you embrace telemedicine, here’s a report by the American Hospital Association that shows how a telemedicine program saved 11% in costs and helped the providers more than triple their investment.
Another thing worth considering is that telemedicine allows you to turn the on-call time of a doctor into billable hours and helps reduce overhead for physicians who decide to transition to a flexible work-from-home model for part of the week.
It Expands the Patient Base and Increases Revenue
We’ve already mentioned how telemedicine improves access to medical care for patients in rural areas. What this means for your practice is that you’ll be able to offer healthcare services to these patients and expand your patient base, ultimately increasing the revenue of your practice.
Medical facilities that embrace telemedicine will lose fewer patients to out-of-network transfer. With the ability to consult a specialist in minutes, you’ll be able to accurately determine whether a transfer to an out-of-network facility is necessary. A pilot project at San Diego’s North County Health Services showed that 65% of specialist referrals were unnecessary when doctors had a means of consulting the specialists through modern telecommunications channels. You can read more about telemedicine in California to learn how this state has dealt with the rising popularity of telehealth.
It Reduces No-Shows
No-shows are one of the leading causes of revenue loss in an in-person setting. When a good number of your patients don’t show up for a physical exam, your schedule becomes heavily disrupted.
Accommodating for the lost time can be challenging, if not outright impossible, given the distance between the patients and your practice. You cannot just phone a different patient to fill in the gaps in your schedule. This leads to your doctors and medical staff idling and your practice losing revenue.
With telemedicine, you have much more flexibility. When a patient doesn’t show, and a new one wants to schedule an appointment, you can immediately admit them. The main idea is to reduce the number of no shows, rather than deal with the consequences of people not showing up for their scheduled appointments. Although people are less likely to skip an online appointment, since it’s way less of a hassle than coming for an in-person visit, they might still forget.
That’s why we made automated appointment reminders one of Curogram’s core features. With our platform, you can create templated text to send out to your patients as an SMS. You can choose when to send out the reminders and can have multiple — one a few days in advance, one on the day of the appointment, and one a few minutes before the video call.
This way, you can ensure that they don’t skip the appointment but also give them enough time to prepare for the virtual visit.
It Improves Workflows
Telemedicine can help improve your practice’s workflows by enabling you to prioritize care delivery, as well as make recommendations and provide treatment more efficiently. With a proper telemedicine solution, you can ensure that tasks are designated to proper clinicians, improving the overall efficiency of your practice.
Curogram takes this a step further and allows you to streamline your online workflows to perfection. Our platform sends out electronic patient intake forms in advance of every visit, so you’ll have all the necessary medical information readily available when the patient shows up for an appointment.
The virtual clinics you set up with Curogram also come with advanced management tools, allowing your medical staff to easily onboard the patients and prepare them for the virtual encounter with the doctor. Doctors can see the patients’ status in the waiting rooms and initiate calls with a single button once the patient is ready.
This means doctors don’t have to concern themselves with onboarding or collecting additional medical data on the video call and can focus on examination and treatment. With Curogram, each doctor can admit up to 40 patients daily, significantly increasing the revenue of your practice!
It Lowers Exposure to Illness and Infection
Since telemedicine encounters are conducted remotely, your doctors and medical staff won't be exposed to the pathogens the patients might carry.
Potential Drawbacks of Telemedicine
Despite the many benefits telemedicine can offer, there are a few potential drawbacks that you need to be aware of before offering remote healthcare services to your patients.
The considerations for adopting telemedicine include:
- Technical training
- Limited insurance coverage
- HIPAA compliance requirements
- Documenting telemedicine encounters
Before you can start treating patients online, you have to make sure that your doctors and medical staff have the required technical training and can properly use the telemedicine solution you opt for. A key thing to remember is that you’ll be handling sensitive medical data. Improper use of telemedicine software could lead to data breaches and confidentiality issues.
That’s why you need to be prepared to invest resources into employees’ technical training and ensure they are all keenly aware of all the protocols and procedures associated with sharing and handling of protected health information.
We made Curogram intuitive and easy-to-use for both patients and doctors, to minimize the amount of time and resources you’d have to devote to staff training. With Curogram, you handle everything from a single, web-based dashboard, in a 100% safe and secure environment.
Limited Insurance Coverage
Another thing to consider is that some telemedicine services might not be covered by your patients’ insurance plans. Before engaging in a telemedicine visit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the parity laws of the state your practice is in, as well as advise the patient to check what types of telemedicine services are covered by their insurance.
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HIPAA Compliance Requirements
You can’t just choose the first telemedicine solution you come across. It’s necessary to ensure that medical information is fully encrypted and properly protected. Most video platforms aren’t designed for telemedicine, and they either don’t offer advanced SSL encryption (both in transit and at rest) or aren’t as secure as they claim to be.
Curogram is designed specifically for healthcare professionals, is fully HIPAA compliant, and comes with built-in safeguards, so you don’t have to hire an IT expert or consult a lawyer to meet all the compliance requirements.
Documenting Telemedicine Encounters
Before you start practicing telemedicine, you must consider how you’re going to share PHI and document telemedicine encounters. With most solutions out there, your medical staff would have to enter the information manually into your electronic health record after each visit. This way, they’d be wasting a ton of valuable time on administrative tasks rather than on providing medical care to patients.
Curogram completely eliminates these redundant tasks. It integrates with over 700 EHRs, automating the entire process of updating and maintaining medical records. Thanks to our proprietary technology, Curogram can integrate with your EHR in less than 48 hours, while other solutions might take months!
Curogram EHR integrations
Have a Successful Telemedicine Start with Curogram
Curogram makes adopting telemedicine a simple, easy, and seamless experience.
There is no learning curve since our software is incredibly easy to use. You don’t have to concern yourself with any of the technical details — Curogram comes with built-in capabilities that ensure your telemedicine practice is fully HIPAA compliant and that patients’ medical records are protected by the latest encryption technology.
Curogram features you’ll love
Full EHR integration
Curogram fully integrates with your EHR, in less than 48 hours, and automates the entire process of updating and maintaining medical records.
Curogram replicates in-person workflows, allowing your doctors and staff to easily transition to an online environment. Our waiting room management tools facilitate patient check-in and check-out, allowing doctors to admit up to 40 patients daily.
Automated appointment reminders
Reduce no-shows by 75% with smart, automated appointment reminders.
Automated five-star reviews
Send review requests to your most satisfied patients and generate hundreds of five-star ratings.
Learn more about Curogram and start your free trial and see why clinics, doctors, and patients love us!