Everyone knows just how expensive healthcare is in the United States. Many people have trouble affording insurance, have high co-pays, and even avoid going to the doctor because it costs too much. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of preventable illness, pain, and other poor outcomes.
The solution to this problem will need to be multifaceted, but telehealth might be able to help with costs in both the short and long term. Telehealth refers to healthcare services administered at a distance, often over video chat. During the COVID-19 pandemic, insurers have been expanding their telehealth coverage as doctors attempt to provide medical support to patients without risking unnecessary exposure to the virus.
Now that more people are familiar and comfortable with the concept of telehealth, we can expect to see demand rise. Among the many benefits of telehealth, like convenience and time-saving for doctors and patients, virtual services can drive down the cost of healthcare. Here’s how.
Increasing Access While Reducing Costs
Telehealth is a win-win for patients and doctors. Not only does it increase access by reducing transportation barriers and saving time for doctors, but it can reduce costs per visit by $19-120. In some cases, the savings can be even greater. Patients who are diverted from the emergency room can cut their bills by up to $1500!
The reason for these cost savings is simple: in many cases, a patient’s concern can be resolved in one virtual consultation, without the need for an office visit or more expensive interventions. It also saves patients the trouble of travel and can allow for shorter wait times.
Telemedicine is Helping Health Organizational Efficiency
In healthcare, lots of money is wasted due to organizational efficiency. Patients are often kept waiting in the office and a lot of time is spent on routine monitoring that could be done remotely. Many facilities are chronically inefficient, with lots of time and money spent on tasks that don’t serve the organization’s goals.
Healthcare organizations can improve their ability to meet their goals by almost 30% with a well-run telehealth program. In addition to saving money for patients directly, telehealth can help organizations run more efficiently and save money that way. Waste and wait times are huge concerns within the American healthcare system, and telehealth is one of the many ways to address them.
Telemedicine Technology is Improving Treatment Efficiency
Going to the doctor takes up a big chunk of the day. You have to make an appointment in advance during business hours, drive or take public transit (sometimes from far away), sit in the waiting room, get all your vitals taken, and finally see the doctor. It’s an inefficient and inconvenient system that can cause people to miss work or school.
With telehealth, patients spend a lot less time on the road and in waiting rooms, resulting in time saved overall and a more efficient experience. For patients who have to miss work for doctor’s appointments, the cost savings can be substantial. Additionally, the convenience makes doctor’s appointments less stressful, especially for people who get anxious in hospitals or doctor’s offices.
Although some consultations and treatments need to take place in person, many issues can be handled remotely. Electronic health records can give doctors a comprehensive look at their patients’ health history to gain context before a telehealth appointment. People with chronic health issues can often cut back on visits and enjoy more efficient treatment, which improves their quality of life substantially.
Positive Impacts for Both Patients & Providers
One of the reasons telehealth is gaining popularity is that it offers benefits for patients and providers. Patients can get high-quality care at a lower cost, while providers can make their organizations more efficient and potentially increase their radius for bringing in new patients.
Traditionally, our healthcare system has operated on a fee-for-service model that doesn’t incentivize doctors to prevent health problems, as it’s more profitable to offer treatments and interventions. With telehealth and patient-centered care on the rise, however, we’re seeing a positive shift toward a different model. As people use telehealth services more, the emphasis may shift to enhanced preventative care, with fewer interventions needed.
Telehealth has been available for a while now, but we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. In the future, as implementation continues and technology improves, patients can look forward to even more convenience and improved quality of care—all at a lower cost.