How Telemedicine is Transforming Treatment in Rural Communities

Understanding the importance of telemedicine can transform the healthcare sector forever, but this isn’t just a result of the coronavirus.


The novel coronavirus situation has made traveling not only difficult but also dangerous. During the pandemic, the importance of telemedicine has become more evident than ever. The government has chosen it as the first line of defense since it provides a secure platform for physicians to give immediate remote care to patients without coming in contact with the disease or anyone affected by it. All that said, it may seem that the use of telemedicine is only coming into play during this era of COVID-19, but interestingly, it has been around for a while. 

Although it is peaking in expansion now, telemedicine started developing half a century ago, and not just as far as video calling an out of town patient. Government bodies and private organizations had been investing in telemedicine to extend healthcare access to rural areas and particularly to astronauts. 

The medical community was well on the way to expanding the limits of medicine in the 1950s and 60s. Radio technology and low-quality videos made their debut for treatment to patients in areas that were inaccessible or too far away in the United States. Telemedicine was introduced in rural areas initially only as pilot projects initiated by universities that became so beneficial that rural health clinics picked them up. Patients without the right technology to support telemedicine could simply go to those clinics, consult their desired physicians, and use the equipment present in those clinics. The rural health clinics were small and could cater to a large range of medical specialists, saving the patients trips to larger areas and also providing immediate and effective care.

But that is of the past.

Telemedicine has become an essential part of the healthcare system in rural areas. Since most of the United States’ population lives in areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals, the benefits e-health has provided has made it imperative. [1] Telemedicine practice continues to provide more patients access to professional healthcare. Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, conducted research that reported that 84% of American adults now use the internet, and 78% of citizens in rural areas have some form of internet access. However, people who live in the rural parts of the United States are still more likely to die prematurely of the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. [2]

Telehealth for rural patients has proven to be the best option for doctors to monitor their patients’ chronic conditions concerning the heart and lungs. Better monitoring can reduce hospital readmissions, deaths from chronic disease, and improve patients’ quality of life. Telemedicine also provides professional care in situations like strokes that require immediate action. The advantages of telehealth in rural areas is an indicator that implementing telemedicine in rural hospitals is the solution to most of the problems faced there.

Lack of Specialized Consultation in Rural Areas

Patients with chronic diseases require frequent consultation and monitoring. The lack of specialized physicians results in a lot of time and money spent traveling to hospitals in metropolitan areas. Rural hospitals have ample options that can help provide solutions to patients with specialized needs.

These include:

  • Remote specialist consultations
  • Outsourced diagnostic analysis 
  • Remote consultations
  • Direct-to-consumer telemedicine

All telemedicine consultations save the patient and the physician’s time, leaving room for more appointments with other patients who also require in-person care. [3]

Reducing Readmissions

Preventive care is the biggest factor in reducing readmissions. Telehealth for rural patients allows them to check in with physicians for follow-ups without unscheduled medical care. This limits situations from advancing into more serious conditions.

Aftercare at home is also difficult to manage for patients. HIPAA compliant consultation with platforms like SmartClinix helps nurses and physicians check-in on discharged patients to follow up on their aftercare, preventing an eventual trip back to the hospital or a flaring up of disease symptoms.

Reach the remote and underserved

Residents who have worked and lived in rural areas their entire life have to commute greatly to reach specialized care and often are unable to get immediate care in severe situations. Those in underserved areas mostly do not have a reliable source of transportation that limits their clinical exposure greatly. Seeing physicians remotely at home can benefit people living in rural areas, also resulting in a high patient satisfaction index. [4]

Telemedicine providers have helped hospitals and clinics in rural areas in moving forward. Providing underserved and chronically ill patients a reliable source of care is the task telemedicine has taken in stride. If you are considering telemedicine, or would like to provide expert consultations online without the hassle and risks of physical patient visits, SmartClinix can serve as an ideal forum where complete customized telemedicine solutions are available for all kinds of medical practices.

1-https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/telehealth-in-rural-communities.htm

2-https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/how-telemedicine-is-transforming-treatment-in-rural-communities.html

3-https://www.wrvo.org/post/telemedicine-connecting-rural-patients-urban-specialists?fbclid=IwAR2daokSCmB4cyQDgujPgXGnVhh24f-5EglPAD1LmTRLMbtH-xNeooOIhyQ

4-https://www.healthit.gov/faq/why-telehealth-important-rural-provide

 

How To Increase Appointment Volume With Telemedicine

Technology has redefined the world of healthcare. Using e-health as the front line of defense while adhering to telemedicine guidelines for the novel coronavirus has brought telemedicine into the mainstream. The goal is to allow physicians to provide care without the risk of exposure to diseases. Vis-a-vis, the patients can receive consultations and treatments while adhering to social distancing through telehealth tips. Although ‘online clinic’ and ‘telemedicine’ might be fairly new terms for you, telemedicine has already been a part of the digital society pre-pandemic. It has been providing patients and physicians secure and easy access to each other regardless of the geographical location.

Telemedicine was well on its way to becoming more and more important to the US healthcare system. The swelling population with longer lifespans was putting a strain on the demand for doctors. Providing public access to remote consultation was a viable solution to this problem. A research conducted by AHA showed that more than 74% of Americans were willing to use telemedicine services, and more than 76% were more comfortable with access to care at home than going through the entire process of traveling, waiting, and revisiting for aftercare. Affordable internet connectivity, paired with the widespread use of smartphones, the average patient can receive immediate healthcare solutions at any given time and place. Bills were regularly being passed all around the USA regarding telemedicine, thus allowing more population access to professional and certified consultation. By 2015, 42 states around the country were introducing at least one bill regarding telehealth.

Telemedicine provides a variety of tools, including online portals, which are managed by physicians. With the growing need for secure platforms to conduct confidential consultations, healthcare providers have come up with HIPAA compliant platforms like SmartClinix. Telemedicine applications have increasingly become more beneficial than in-person practice and continue to provide a wide range of services to physicians and patients. Implementing telemedicine technology may carry notable financial value at first, but over time it can increase revenue and save physicians money. COVID-19 has shown the significance of ‘healing from distance’, but the benefits telemedicine provides go far beyond the pandemic. Patients have better access to care, improved accessibility, more infrequent hospital readmissions, fewer sick leaves, and many more. Despite the countless benefits, many physicians are concerned about the effect on revenue shifting to telemedicine will bring. There are multiple ways that e-health will be increasing appointment volume and hence, revenue.

Lesser Wasted Appointments

The increasing medical needs of the general population has made practice excessively busy. In medicinal practice, every minute counts, and each appointment could potentially save a life. However, patients failing to arrive on time at scheduled appointments without rescheduling or any cancellation causes major inconvenience and also wastes the time that could be used to cater to another patient. Online waiting rooms at platforms like SmartClinix help bridge that time and bump up appointments when a patient is unable to join or attend on time.  Whenever an individual fails to arrive for an appointment without calling ahead to cancel or reschedule, this causes significant inconvenience for physicians.

Utilizing Valuable Time and Increasing Patient Flow

Providers like SmartClinix ensure that all your time is utilized to equal revenue. It queues your appointments and schedules them to create a constant flow of online consultations that you can cater to vis-a-vis your real-time appointments.  Telemedicine is also beneficial to patient in-flow. By streamlining consultations automatically, it helps healthcare providers utilize their time to its potential best without wasting time waiting for people who are running late. By delivering satisfactory consultation that is also efficient, physicians will have patients returning and also ensure a future custom.

After-Office Unaccounted Urgent Consultation

It is custom to provide services beyond consultation hours, and physicians might find themselves discussing problems with patients over the phone that amounts to unbilled time. Since telemedicine has flexible hours, check-ups and consultation can be converted into revenue-boosters regardless of the hours.

Immediate Appointments and Increased Revenue Opportunities

With the world working at a fast pace and technological advancements catering to urgent needs, most people require immediate medical care even if it’s for something small. Same-day appointments are a very common request that is difficult to cater to in real-time consultation. With remote practice, it is easier for physicians to schedule patients for consultation as the available free slots automatically add patients to the queue.

Attracting New Patients

The benefits telemedicine provides patients have reformed medical care for them. Telemedicine has made healthcare convenient and hassle-free. Introducing telemedicine into your practice will be transforming your practice by attracting new customers and retaining them in comparison to competitors who haven’t set up their online clinic. Immediate and effective care will be prompting patients to pay more for services since the benefits outweigh traditional services. With secure consultation paired with a wide range of services, telemedicine can boost your revenue by making them comfortable with paying for an increase in prices in return for quality healthcare.

Attracting Different Kinds of Patients

The general acceptance of technology as a permanent part of life has made people more comfortable and more susceptible to accepting electronic healthcare. Running research about the acceptance level of the general population regarding virtual consultation showed that 75% of patients who had never seen a doctor via video-calling were interested in trying out the new experience. Despite its popularity during the pandemic, telemedicine was well on it’s way to the world of healthcare. The virus outbreak has allowed e-health to make its way into practice and establish a base. In other words, telemedicine isn’t just a tech-savvy solution limited to some patient preference. Telemedicine is the best way to incorporate technology into medicine and provide more convenient solutions to both physicians and patients. Telemedicine makes the process of scheduling and rescheduling easier and also boosts revenue by helping doctors cater to more patients in a lesser amount of time, raising the satisfaction index of current patients and attracting new ones, and decreasing canceled appointments all equating to maximum billing time.   Have you considered joining the world of telemedicine technology to increase your practice’s revenue and save time? If not, this is a sign and there’s no better time than now to go ahead with it.

Telemedicine Applications / Uses For Healthcare

Uses of Telemedicine in Healthcare

Telemedicine has seen a boom like never before. Although it has proven its significance in catering to the current pandemic, telehealth has been around for decades. As it has previously, it continues to benefit the healthcare system immensely.

As technology has advanced, mobile phones and the internet have become prevalent in society, the technological advancement in health care modalities have been created to provide patients with convenient access to consultations – a service that providers are willing to offer.

If you are new to the digital world of medicine and are skeptical about your online clinic only being relevant during the pandemic, here are a few applications of telemedicine that ensure your online clinic isn’t a temporary solution:

Immediate stroke care and identification

A stroke victim must be given immediate treatment, which raises the chances of survival. From two to three hours of suffering a stroke, the treatment focuses more on the capability of identifying the key symptoms and administering a medicine that is known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). The emergency room often has physicians that lack the expertise to make such decisions, and the hospitals of small or rural areas don’t always have a neurologist around. Considering telemedicine during crucial moments like during a stroke help control damage and

provide immediate instructions.

Supervision in ICU wards

Hospitals and intensive care units have benefitted from telemedicine technology the most. The incorporation of telemedicine in ICU is not an alternative to the physical ICU. Instead, it is used in the form of tele-ICU – a function that provides supervision. It helps the nurses and physicians that are responsible for treating several patients at once to stop mishaps concerning medication overdose, a sudden change in blood pressure, or other important things amongst the alarm and other kinds of distraction that could most likely be detrimental.

The tele-ICU staff has access to the patient’s data, such as their vital signs, lab results, and physicians’ notes as on-site critical care staff. Since those physicians working in remote hospitals are not met with the same distractions like the ones working in hospitals, they can closely monitor the patient’s progress and suggest new treatments or drug options.

Home Rehabilitation

One of the benefits of telemedicine is that the care process is only the beginning for the patients who have just recently been discharged from the ER or the ICU – especially for those patients who are recovering from a stroke or suffering from other neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, or dementia. Patients suffering from these illnesses mostly find it difficult to travel to a health care facility.

The use of Telehealth applications in rehabilitation confronts these issues in multiple ways. Some of them include leading group therapy sessions, remotely monitoring a patient’s pedometer readings to ensure that an exercise regime is up to par, and providing the patients with online resources.

Cardiovascular disease prevention

Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death. Changes in lifestyle or drug treatments can help in preventing it. Despite all the changes, patients are required to work closely with their doctors for multiple other supporting activities that can be difficult for both parties. Telemedicine and telehealth applications may be saviors in these situations. Attending cardiovascular disease management programs is much more feasible for patients and doctors and has proven to be more successful.

Encouragement and supervision of diabetic aftercare

Numerous diabetic inpatient visits are close to $100 billion a year in the United States. Research suggests that telehealth benefits patients suffering from diabetes, especially older adults.

To attain success in this, two things must happen. Firstly, the physician’s and patients’ interaction must boost self-efficacy or fuel the belief that the patients’ glycemic control can improve by engaging in activities.

Secondly, treatment plans must consider setting goals to successfully change the patient’s behavior – fortunately enough this has become progressively easier due to telemedicine applications for healthcare which helps the patients keep track of calories, keep an eye on vital signs, log workouts and monitor their medication doses and schedules – the patients must be regularly checked in with by their nurses and dieticians to monitor their progress.

Dermatology

Dermatology has been the sector of medicine that has benefitted the most from e-health. Most dermatological issues can be communicated with physicians through images. With secured telemedicine platforms like SmartClinix that provide HIPAA secure video conferencing, teledermatology can be used to send pictures of patients’ skin problems along with their medical history and receive reports back.

Rural Healthcare

Telemedicine provides many benefits for rural areas of the United States. However, it’s biggest impacts can be seen in the developing world where healthcare is inaccessible for the masses. Providing healthcare in struggling third-world countries can tackle relatively minor conditions and prevent them from growing severe. Telemedicine allows rapid deployment of healthcare through low-cost clinics. Through telemedicine, you can share the expertise of a specialist located in any part of the world remotely.

Most telemedicine platforms, like SmartClinix, provide a range of packages to choose from and a trial that helps you decide if telemedicine is for you. Telehealth continues to show that its uses in the healthcare system render it extremely beneficial. The pandemic will ensure that the patients previously hesitant to use digital healthcare services realize it’s benefits and develop loyalty for it.