Telemedicine isn’t a new idea, but recent technological advances have made it more efficient and cost-effective for both patients and medical practitioners. What is telemedicine and how can it save money for patients and independent medical practitioners?
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is defined as using telecommunications devices to enable physicians to communicate with and diagnose patients remotely. It was first mentioned in medical literature in the 1950s, but it’s only in recent years that technology has caught up with the concept.
Today, doctors can use text, phone and video chats to keep in touch with their patients outside of the office.
The widespread adaptation of electronic health records makes telemedicine even easier, because all records are kept in a secure digital cloud and can be accessed from anywhere.
With all these new technical advances, how can you save your patients money by offering telemedicine options, and how can these new options help you as well?
Reduced Travel Costs
One of the biggest costs for patients is travel. Patients in rural areas could potentially have to drive for hours for an appointment with a specialist who doesn’t practice in their area. Telemedicine could be a great way to reduce those costs. One study, completed by UC Davis, found that over 20 years of medical appointments, a patient could save four hours of time behind the wheel, more than 270 miles driven and more than $150 in travel costs through telemedicine.
You can make this easier for your patients by actively engaging with other practices who have telemedicine options already set up for you to work with. Can you refer someone to a conversation with a specialist over video chat right from your office? Being proactive in setting up these telemedicine networks can be a great way to help reduce costs for your patients.
Fewer Missed Appointments
When a patient misses an appointment, you lose money. Some studies have estimated that missed appointments can cost a practice upwards of $150,000. Nationally, missed appointments are costing the U.S. Healthcare system more than $150 billion a year.
It’s a lot harder for your patients to forget their appointment when all they need is their phone or computer at home to complete it, which in turn works out better for you. You’re able to help more patients while preventing the excessive monetary loss that accompanies missed appointments.
For clients with a typical 9-5 work schedule, daytime appointments often come at the cost of a few hours of work, so appointments after the traditional office hours might be the only way for these patients to make it into the office. You will also occasionally run into patients who need some help outside of your usual office hours.
Unfortunately, when you’re running an independent practice, after-hours appointments aren’t always an option because of the additional cost to keep your office open and staffed just for these patients.
Telemedicine enables you to offer your services to patients after your normal office hours without the additional overhead — you can hold appointments from your home or anywhere with an Internet connection and a smart device. Not only is it more convenient for your patients, but potentially more profitable for your practice as well.
Online Eligibility for Marijuana Prescriptions
In states where medical marijuana has been legalized (29 states, as of the beginning of 2017), eligibility assessments have become a common appointment. The specifics for each state may vary, but one thing that’s the same across the board is that medical marijuana prescriptions require the intervention of a medical professional to obtain.
Telemedicine not only makes it easy to check qualifications online for your patients, it enables you to complete eligibility consultations without requiring your patients to come into the office.
While telemedicine isn't meant to completely replace in-office appointments, it’s a great tool that can help save your patients money and enable you to help people who might not be able to travel to your office.