When it comes to the future of health care delivery, location matters—just not in the traditional sense. According to a survey by the Advisory Board, up to 77% of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually.
While patients are keen to take advantage of virtual visits, providers have struggled to find a solution for the inefficient, centralized nature of care and the high cost of physicians' time. However, the introduction of new technology is opening doors and enabling innovation in the way health care providers can offer quality care, without sacrificing diagnostic capabilities.
Virtual visits are increasing in frequency as traditional physician office visits are declining. According to FAIR Health, telehealth utilization grew 53% from 2016 to 2017. More traditional care settings saw much more modest utilization growth, such as 14% for urgent cares. Additionally, discharge-related telehealth consultations have grown exponentially—up by 407% in rural areas and 157% in urban areas (from 2014 to 2018), according to another study from FAIR Health.
Source: FAIR Health
Providers and patients alike increasingly view telehealth as a cost-effective and efficient method to deliver and expand access to quality care. As changes to legal, regulatory, and reimbursement rules increase telehealth's feasibility, telehealth is coming to the forefront of the care delivery model. Make sure that you are in a position to reap the benefits of telehealth, including cost savings, increased efficiencies and productivity, and reduced physician burnout.
Patient no-shows not only impact your ability to accurately plan and manage your resources, but also your bottom line. When a patient simply doesn't show up for his or her appointment, you still incur staffing and overhead costs, but have no opportunity to fill that slot with revenue-generating activities. On average, a no-show patient costs practices $200. Given that the average no-show rate across outpatient settings is 14.2%, what are no-shows costing your practice?
The reasons for no-shows run the gamut: from transportation logistics to child care obligations to simply forgetting. Implementing a telehealth strategy can help reduce the number of no-shows. The Journal of Family Medicine reports that 16% of patients missed their appointment due to a personal or work issue, 7% due to a problem with transportation, and 5.5% due to being too sick to come into the practice.
No matter the reason, the end result is the same for your practice: lost revenue and idle resources. Implementing telehealth in your practice can help reduce the number of no-shows by making appointments convenient and reducing total cost for the patient. By conducting your patient visit virtually, you:
All of these benefits enable your patients to keep their appointments and ensure that your resources are not idle, that they are being employed efficiently.
According to research by the Association of American Medical Colleges, physician demand continues to grow faster than supply, and will lead to a shortfall of 122,000 physicians by 2032. The increased demand is driven by the aging population; the number of individuals 65 or older will grow by 48% by 2032. Physicians themselves account for part of this growth—within the next decade 33% of physicians will be 65 or older.
Telehealth has the potential to reduce the gap between physician demand and supply. Because telehealth removes the physical barriers of traditional patient visits, it enables physicians to provide care for more—and more geographically diverse—patients.
Telehealth can improve your practice's efficiency by helping you to optimize resource allocation—no matter where your resources may be located. If your practice has multiple locations, telehealth allows your clinicians to consult patients from any site, on demand. This capability can reduce the need to pay staff overtime or to hire temps to meet patient demand.
With physician-employment at an all-time high, your practice must be competitive in its compensation packages. The Advisory Board reports that, in 2014, 46% of final-year residents had been contacted more than 100 times about employment opportunities. They also report that 92% of hospital executives expect to experience a clinician shortage within the next 10 years. Physician recruitment is more competitive than ever and your talent strategy must reflect that.
One way to stand out is to remember that compensation is not just about money—it's also about work-life balance. As more millennials and more women come into the physician workforce, work-life balance and flexible hours will be key differentiators. In fact, final-year medical residents have ranked "availability of free time" and "earning a good income" as top considerations of employment.
Telehealth doesn't just enable the patient to engage with their health care professional virtually—it extends that same flexibility to health care providers themselves. This flexibility can help you retain and acquire your talent, ultimately minimizing the risk of staff shortages within your practice. Telehealth helps your clinicians to achieve work-life balance (however they define it) by enabling them to conduct patient visits from home and during their preferred hours.
Before integrating a telehealth program, ask the following questions:
Once you have evaluated whether pursuing telehealth is the right strategy for you, look for a telehealth partner. A valuable telehealth partner will offer you an unprecedented level of options for high-quality, doctor-patient encounters and care team information sharing, with real-time and store-and-forward communication.