Posted by Mike Fontana on 15 Oct 2014
I have written in this healthcare blog a bit about the importance of engaging the consumer where and how they are most comfortable, the use of telemedicine, and some reasons why I believe it is important.
Recently I have read several articles regarding these topics, and several of the writers' thoughts and opinions were that electronic engagement between the healthcare provider and the patient can be a negative for either or both players. Some have also questioned whether telemedicine will bring about the efficiencies, group management and types of services to the market that will be necessary to increase quality and satisfaction while decreasing or controlling costs.
If electronic engagement brings additional work or complications in completing the same task which was done manually or paper-based, I would agree. But that is not what the market should be trying to accomplish, and any service that did and was not cost-effective, will not be around for long.
With regards to telemedicine, the proliferation of Consumer Directed Health Care (HSAs, HRAs), and passage of the Affordable Care Act and HITECH, engaging the consumer in electronic ways becomes especially important. With the increase of insured individuals in the market, and also:
A push to providers to move towards value-based and population health services
Electronic medical records
Meaningful use standards
Decreases in government payment rates
Payers looking for narrow networks of providers
The expectation of better patient satisfaction
Increased consumer responsibility
The use of telemedicine type services can play an important role for both consumer and healthcare provider. These services can be as simple as administrative voice-based or text messages electronic statements and online information access (forms, education, appointments, health record, post-discharge, messaging, etc.), or more clinical based voice and visual encounters, and diagnostic services performed remotely between multiple parties.
The important thing is that the electronic service must be easy to use, wanted, and less work for the user, and an efficient and valuable service.
You will hear many physicians who are not happy with their EMR. It is not that it is electronic, but many times it is because it is not easy to use and time consuming, costly, and does not meet their needs in serving their patients.
So will electronic patient engagement and telemedicine services be important to this new consumer-based market? From what I have observed, there is an absolute need to keep the future healthcare inflation growth to reasonable expectations (in an aging baby boomer environment). The continued development of smartphones and their healthcare applications, new online clinical services, and more efficient use of electronic and cloud-based computing to decrease administrative burdens will be a must in reaching the increased provider productivity and consumer involvement.