It’s been quite a month for the whole concept of telehealth and virtual care.
At the national level, the Washington insider publication Roll Call (see New Congress, New Push for Telemedicine) reported that Mississippi Republican Greg Harper led a bipartisan effort in support of a telemedicine bill in the last Congress, and is now discussing the development of new telehealth legislation for this year. And there was a cover story in U.S. News & World Report – Telepsychiatry: the New Frontier in Mental Health.
At the state level, a telehealth bill is moving through the Colorado legislature (see Is ONC finally Staffing Up Again? — Colorado Moves On Telemedicine Bill — 30 Groups Comment On E&C Telemedicine Draft; a telemedicine bill is moving through the Massachusetts legislature (see HD1829: Advancing Telemedicine In Massachusetts); a similar bill passed in New York (see New York Passes Telemedicine Reimbursement Legislation); and, telehealth has gained acceptance among the usually-reticent professional community in Washington state (see Washington Medical Community Lobbies For Bill To Allow Telemedicine Reimbursements). Texas, on the other hand, has kept more in line with the traditional reaction to telehealth (see Texas board curbs telemedicine, prompts lawsuit).
Consumer use of e-health is also increasing. From 2012 to 2014, consumer online activities related to virtual care have more than doubled. And the percentage of households that send emails with health questions to their clinical professionals more than doubled from 11% to 21%. At the same time, payers are expanding telemedicine and e-health of various types (see What Government Telehealth Opportunities Are Out There?, Telehealth Reimbursements 2014: Medicaid, Telehealth Reimbursements 2014: Health Plans, and Telehealth Reimbursements 2014: Medicare). This will increase the need for provider organization executives to consider if and how they will integrate virtual care into their treatment models.
What should executives keep in mind as they consider the expanding acceptance of and preference for virtual care delivery among consumers and payers? There are three big considerations that are outlined in Virtual Care Demand Could Test Care Providers’ Health IT Infrastructure In 2015, a piece by Harry Wang, the lead analyst for Parks Associates’ digital health research program, that appeared recently in Computerworld.
- The video revolution has its challenges – While traditional patient portals are probably fine, according to Mr. Wang, interactive communications services using video could be a potential area for trouble. The issues to consider include video player configurations and related software challenges, system capabilities and reliability for increased video traffic, and security.
- Real-time health information exchange is the expectation – Virtual care increases timely access to professionals, and consumers expect their medical records to keep up. Increasing use of telehealth will highlight the problems of interoperability (see Net Neutrality Is About More Than Streaming Movies and Interoperable Electronic Data Exchange Is Non-Existent Among Long-Term Care Provider Organizations). Consumers expect timely access to past health records, lab tests, and diagnostic imaging.
- Dealing with all that remote monitoring data – The most advanced of virtual care systems leverage consumer self-monitoring capabilities, and integrated them into virtual care sessions. It sounds quite simple, but how such data will be fed into electronic health records (EHR) without delay and then compared with similar historical data is no simple matter. And, it is critically important to both the consumer experience and realizing cost savings from e-health.
For more on telehealth strategy, check out Four Telehealth Strategy Considerations and Building A Sustainable Telehealth Program in our Industry Library. And for a more immersive experience, join the OPEN MINDS Team in New Orleans on June 16-18 for the 2015 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute presentation – Making Health Tech Work – Perspectives From Organizations With A Track Record.