With American healthcare constantly in the headlines today, Jack Plotkin, chief technology officer at VirtualHealth, is eager to inject telehealth into the conversation.
Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare services via digital means. The idea is that the patient can sit in front of her Internet-accessible computer and talk with a nurse or other caregiver. She can ask questions, describe symptoms and even show affected areas if it can aid in a tentative diagnosis.
Telehealth is a great strategy for delivering care to patients in remote areas or to those who must hold costs down or are mobility-challenged. These individuals are enabled to seek quality care from the comfort and convenience of their homes.
The technology makes such great sense that it’s been on the horizon for years, but there have always been certain sticking points standing in the way of full adoption. The following challenges are being met today at VirtualHealth and throughout the industry, says Plotkin:
Engagement — The online process has to be as simple as possible for greater acceptance. First, people had to have computers and online access. Then the engagement process had to become much less cumbersome. Today, users can collect their own biometric data through common wearable devices. The data acquisition process has been simplified and redundancies eliminated. With fewer tasks and responsibilities put on the patient, engagement rates have improved.
Integration — Until recently, telehealth exam data has been relegated to a separate track away from conventional exam results in patient records. What good is that in evaluating and maintaining patient health? That’s why VirtualHealth combines all data streams, both digital and real-world, for a “360-degree view” of the patient’s medical history.
Payment Reimbursement — Sure, there’s a cost for this complex and, in many cases, life-saving technology. That has to be recognized, and today it finally is. Insurance companies are finally accepting the validity of telehealth and agreeing to pay for it. So are government payors such as Medicare and Medicaid. This funding has enabled the technology to mature and find real-world applications.
The benefit to all is reduced costs and improved outcomes for even the most vulnerable patients, says Plotkin.