As a physician, I’ve long been struggling with exhaustion and frustration stemming from long hours, inefficiencies, heavy paperwork, administrative burdens and limited patient time. I’d come home every night and feel frustrated. Is this why we went into the field of medicine?
I recently read an interesting article from MHealthIntelligence. It talked about a list of the top 15 medical specialties embracing telehealth. And it got me thinking. Have medical practices not been keeping up with patient demands? Are we forgetting that our patients are consumers and the very core of our practice? Will patients drive the kind of change that we all need? And if we don’t keep up with these technology demands, will we be left behind? It made me wonder if we’re at risk of becoming the dinosaurs of our fields, losing patients to the competitors who are able to embrace technology while providing the highest standards of care.
Rapidly growing interest
Doximity recently released a study that said that interest in telehealth has doubled over the past three years and is growing annually by 20 percent. And some savvy physicians have embraced this new frontier and have started to test out telehealth solutions for their practices. Why? First, because their patients want it. Second, because they are able to provide better care with it. Doctors talk about how their patient’s behavior is changing and it’s not surprising. Patients are consumers of the medical field and they want deeper connections and more convenient access to their physicians on their own terms.
Telehealth is no longer for a select few early adopters. Now, we are also seeing new practice areas coming on board. For example, the study referenced above identified radiologists and psychologists as jumping onto the telehealth trend too. According to the survey, the top 10 specialties showing interest in virtual care are: Radiology, Psychiatry, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Family Medicine, Dermatology, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Geriatrics, and Allergy & Immunology.
So what’s driving these practice areas to adopt telehealth at such a rapid rate? Beyond a competitive advantage, telehealth allows physicians to:
Increase Practice Profitability: While phone calls don’t qualify for reimbursement, video calls do. Moving to video communications means doctors get paid for the time spent interacting with patients outside the office.
Free Up Office Time: By moving level 1-3 visits to video, doctors can devote more in-office time to patients with moderate to high severity needs.
Expand their Base: Build a larger base of clients that might be in rural areas outside of their standard patient radius. These new patients might be underserved by a specific specialty or not able to visit the office as regularly as they might need.
Increase Flexible Scheduling Options: Video appointments can be easily scheduled by doctors or requested by a patient, putting the control at both critical points.
Easily Capture Revenue: Telehealth makes it easy to turn follow-up care into a new source of revenue by having funds deposited directly into the practice’s account. Doctors can choose whether to charge for video consultations and set their own price structure.
Better Continuity of Care: Most importantly, telehealth helps improve on-going health and creates better outcomes for patients who need to be monitored more regularly or have fairly routine needs.
As trends point to a greater level of comfort with patients using devices with ease, virtual office visits are becoming more common. Adopting the right telehealth solution for your practice can be profitable, efficient and convenient for your staff and your patients. Set up your practice for future success through telehealth.
Samant Virk, MD is the CEO and founder of MediSprout.