A better Rx for doctor-patient interaction

When’s the last time you had a conference call that was good for your health? Today, more patients can say they have, as healthcare organizations adopt and expand their telehealth services — the use of voice, video and messaging — to support long-distance clinical healthcare.

Telehealth deployments can provide better patient and business outcomes and, as a result, are expanding from small, targeted roles in healthcare organizations to enterprise-wide deployments.

In regions where healthcare providers are limited, telehealth lets organizations better scale those providers to improve care coordination — a vital factor as pay-for-performance healthcare models proliferate. And, many patients are actually more satisfied with telehealth than in-person visits because they can obtain care from a more convenient location, often increase the integration with their provider and frequently interact with their doctor at a lower cost. For example, at least some pre- and post-op appointments for a patient undergoing surgery can be conducted remotely, saving travel time and related expenditures.

Considerations for healthy telehealth deployment

With interest growing, more organizations are bringing telehealth services in-house to maintain a unified healthcare continuum — a difficult task when using third-party providers from various vendors. In-house telehealth also helps them compete with immediate care facilities that offer flat-fee services, such as Walgreens and CVS Caremark.

The main telehealth challenge is often the lack of a unified deployment strategy. Deployments are frequently done separately — with different technology providers — by departments within the same organization. A better approach is to scale up each service line by leveraging the same foundational technology architecture. From that base, departments can customize as needed without investing in, building or supporting a new system architecture each time.

Also, a common architecture means doctors won’t have to use multiple systems, making them more likely to use and recommend a telehealth system to their patients — which, of course, is the reason for developing the systems in the first place. In the end, this puts healthcare organizations — and patients — in the best position to reap telehealth benefits.

Telehealth in Practice: Real-World Example of Better Outcomes, Lower Costs

One healthcare organization deploying Cisco’s telehealth solution has psychiatrists and psychologists at a central location providing behavioral health consultations to several ERs in a hub-and-spoke arrangement. The deployment is targeted to patients with comorbidity problems, and those patients have reduced their ED length of stay by 33% during the first three months of the deployment. Inpatient length-of-stay and readmission rates have also dropped. The healthcare organization has realized a 40% reduction in analyzed cost per patient.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of the Health Tech Report.


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