Telehealth is revolutionizing the way physicians practice and patients receive care. Virtual home care, a component of telehealth/telemedicine, allows patients to communicate with their healthcare provider remotely via a computer, tablet and/or other hand held electronic device, even a cell phone. In a recent blog post, Dr. David Eisenhauer, a dual Fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon and Founder and CEO of MoonlightOrtho, highlights the many advantages of e-visits for surgeons as well as patients. According to Dr. Eisenhauer, while telehealth utilization is on the rise, sub-specialty and surgical focused telehealth platforms are starting to come online as patients are becoming more proactive in their healthcare delivery choices.
Patients are prioritizing access to care over the need for an in-person interaction with their provider. Most are comfortable communicating with their provider via text, email or video. Dr. Eisenhauer notes that recent years have seen a steep increase in telehealth as the brick and mortar model of healthcare is being challenged, and may be even slowly becoming outdated. The key advantages of telehealth are as follows:
- Directly connects patients to their provider(s)
- Creates access to sub-specialty care regardless of geographic location
- Cuts expenses and lost wages for patients
- Enables convenient scheduling of appointments and provides 24/7 virtual access
- Can reduce missed appointments and hospital readmissions
- Helps identify and treat problems early, improving patient satisfaction
- Allows providers to triage post-operative patients and treat them remotely
- Allow patients to play a more active role in managing their healthcare
Physicians who implement virtual care see reduced office overhead as they can evaluate and treat patients from the comfort of their home office. This “home time” may also help with addressing physician burnout.
The author discusses recent research which found that telehealth enhanced quality of life for patients recovering from vascular surgery and improved satisfaction within post-operative visits. One study showed that telehealth is also an ideal option for patients with post-surgical complications as well as those whose recovery is progressing well, but would like to connect with their surgeon or other healthcare professionals.
Telehealth/telemedicine services may be provided via secure live video and audio connections, or as a “store ad forward” platform, utilizing asynchronous video telecommunication. Video ensures a more personal telemedicine experience and also allows patients to explain their symptoms in great detail. For instance, with Asynchronous Video Telecommunication offered by MoonlightOrtho – the First and Only stand-alone, Orthopedic-specific telemedicine practice – patients can upload a short, two-minute self video to their medical chart at their leisure. The patient’s MoonlightOrtho provider will later review the patient’s video as well as medical questionnaire. Such new telehealth/telemedicine platforms are HIPAA compliant and enable HL-7 certified communication. They are a vast improvement over bulky, cumbersome platforms that are generally only available as an integrated service within an existing hospital or multi-specialty clinic system.
Many states have passed “parity” laws, which generally require health insurers to cover services provided via telehealth just as they would an in-office visit. Legislation enacted in 2018 includes new standardized CMS coding for e-Visits, while several new bills await review in 2019.