Telehealth Services: Alaska & Beyond
Benefits of Telehealth Services
Between 2016 and 2017, national utilization of telehealth technology has grown by a massive 53%. As more telehealth services become available, and amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s reasonable to expect this number is only growing. Another study conducted between 2015 and 2017 found that annual telehealth visits among commercially insured patients increased by 261%.
Safe to say, telehealth services are rapidly becoming a safe alternative. Let’s take a look at the benefits of telehealth services.
Reduces Stress on Healthcare System
Patient access to care is an enormous problem in the United States. According to Patient Engagement HIT, patient care access is not a reality due to lack of transportation, appointment availability, and many other factors. Additionally, roughly 50% of American adults, without needing the emergency room, struggle to get healthcare on weekends and evenings.
For example, simply scheduling an appointment with their PCP (primary care physician) and specialists can be a daunting task. Oftentimes, the patient is required to wait a significant amount of time before stepping into the office. When a patient does make and keep an appointment, hours are inconveniently blocked out of their day.
A Healthcare IT News report notes more than 75 million Baby Boomers will soon require Medicare benefits, putting greater strain on an already overworked and overtaxed healthcare system. This same report supports the idea telehealth services are becoming more crucial post 2017, going into 2020:
“[They] will be key to helping deliver appropriate care to these aging patients while keeping costs under control. Whether deployed as an affordable means of after-hours medical coverage at skilled nursing facilities or as intuitive voice-activated home tools to help with remote monitoring and distance-based consults, telehealth is reaching maturation at just the moment it’s needed most.”
Greater Rural Access
Telehealth technology has allowed the ability to address obstacles associated with delivering mental and other behavioral health care in rural areas of the United States. In fact, at least 1 in 4 people in rural areas go without access to essential healthcare services. Common reason? The healthcare location was either too far or too difficult to get to. This is exacerbated by the declining amount of hospitals in these rural areas.
Since 2010, more than 100 have closed, and this number is only rising.
Utilizing telehealth services can help address some of these challenges. Essentially, these rural healthcare areas can benefit greatly from telehealth technology.
Aids Patients With Limited Mobility
For those with limited mobility, telehealth technology creates a significant and positive difference in their wellbeing.
Senior patients of course are not the only population impacted. Those with limited mobility, disabilities, and without means of reliable transportation can make travel difficult. Remote access can greatly improve quality of life. This is especially true for those living with chronic conditions where frequent checkups are required.
It’s More Affordable
In addition to its clinical benefits, telehealth services can provide financial benefits as well.
The average net cost savings per telemedicine visit was between $19-$121 per visit. By diverting patients from emergency departments, each visit allowed the patients to save between $309 to more than $1,500.
Another recent study found that telemedicine visits were an average of $38. This is a much lower price tag than $114 0 the average cost of a face-to-face consultation.
Extensive Telehealth Technology Options
Wonderful news for organizations considering whether to add telehealth technology to their clinic: there are numerous solutions to choose from. A Mayo Clinic article provides a full list of the types available that are helpful to patients with diabetes.
- Mobile phone or another device to upload information for review by a clinician.
- App to estimate how much insulin is needed.
- Online patient portal to view test results, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and email a doctor.
- Online system for ordering of testing supplies and medications.
- Mobile retinal photoscreening to check for diabetic retinopathy.
- Email, text, and/or phone reminders for preventive care.
Simply put, organizations can leverage these technologies to improve existing services or provide new ones for diabetic patients.
Telehealth Services for Mental Health Applications
Without a doubt, there are numerous other conditions and situations telehealth can improve. In 2020, and amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, mental health service requests are spiking.
Telepsychology, as it is referred to, can now reach more people than ever before, especially those who are isolated or in rural areas. In today’s culture, people, especially men, are reluctant when it comes to consulting with a psychologist. Utilizing telepsychology breaks down barriers, significantly reducing fear all the while providing greater access to quality mental healthcare.
Let’s outline a few benefits of telepsychology, especially for those with physical, medical, or mobility disabilities:
- Better access to quality care.
- Flexible scheduling.
- Access to care in one’s native language.
- Increased access to a disability specialist, if needed.
- Better access to remote areas or areas that don’t have proper mental health resources.
- Increased access for those with PTSD or agoraphobia – or for anyone who has difficulty attending an in-person session.
- More time for the patient to collect himself or herself and to think about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors outside of therapy.
Needless to say, it allows psychologists to see patients on the patients’ own terms.
According to a 2013 report by Godine and Barnett, a few ways mental health services can be provided via telepsychology:
- Email and telephone
- Real-time chat
- Cell phones
What You Need to Know as a Practitioner
It goes without saying that respecting and protecting the rights and privacy of patients is critical in a patient/therapist relationship.
Telepsychology states the psychologist must provide information on local mental healthcare before treating a patient who is not local – (source). This is especially helpful if you as the practitioner are licensed in multiple states. All the same, the psychologist must advise the patient of the risks and limitations of telepsychology.
As you may already be aware, HIPPA Guidelines must be followed.