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Why 2017 Is the Year to Adopt Telemedicine

Posted by Brooke Andrus, Dec 19, 2016

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’Tis the season for strategic business planning.

Organizations across the country are busy plotting out their roadmaps and setting their budgets for 2017. The healthcare industry is no exception, and with so many factors at play — from new healthcare reform efforts to the future of the Affordable Care Act — settling on a decisive course of action is a tall order for many providers.

But even amid so much uncertainty, one thing is clear: if you’re a healthcare provider and you haven’t yet adopted — or considered adopting — telemedicine in your practice, then 2017 is definitely the year to take the tech leap. Here’s why: 

1) It leads to higher patient satisfaction. 

As patients continue to shoulder a greater proportion of their healthcare costs — thanks in large part to the proliferation of high-deductible health plans — they have greater expectations for the quality of care they receive.

To make sure they get the most bang for their buck, they’re taking more time to “shop around” for their healthcare providers. And that means — just as they would before making any other large buying decision — they are: 

  • comparing potential providers’ “features and benefits”; 
  • asking for recommendations from their friends and family members; and 
  • consulting online review sites to research ratings and/or patient testimonials. 

Offering telemedicine services can help you stand out from your competitors in all of the above-mentioned categories. After all, while your clinical reputation is arguably your most important differentiator, there’s no denying the fact that today’s consumers — including patient-consumers — expect on-demand service and seamless processes.

With telemedicine, you can give your patients a grade-A experience — and that, combined with the quality of care you deliver, will ensure your patients continue to sing your praises long after they’ve been discharged.  

2) It aligns with the overarching call to provide lower-cost, higher-value care. 

Healthcare reform is a hot-button issue in Washington, D.C. — and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’ll continue to be a priority at the federal level throughout 2017. That means providers will continue to feel immense pressure to simultaneously cut wasteful spending and achieve better patient outcomes — particularly among entire patient populations.

To realize that lofty goal, though, more patients must have greater access to care. That’s where telemedicine comes in: it allows some of the country’s most vulnerable populations of patients — those who are homebound and/or geographically isolated, for example — to receive the medical attention they so desperately need.

On top of that, it improves efficiencies on the physician’s end, as it cuts down on time lost when patients are either late for their appointments or fail to show up at all.   

3) It allows practices to diversify their service offerings. 

Most healthcare practitioners are feeling the financial pinch of declining reimbursements. To boost — or merely maintain — revenue, some are turning to non-traditional service offerings, including 

  • cash-pay services, 
  • wellness services, 
  • concierge practice models, and 
  • telemedicine. 

The great thing about adding telemedicine services to your clinical repertoire is that you can do it with very little upfront investment — in terms of both time and money — on your end. All you need is an affordable, easy-to-use, totally compliant telehealth platform, and you can be up and running, lickity split.    

4) It may provide tax benefits. 

Okay, I have to start this one with a disclaimer, so don’t get dollar signs in your eyes just yet. While there are providers who have garnered tax breaks by offering telemedicine services, the tax laws surrounding this area of medical practice are murky, at best.

As explained here, you may be able to gain tax exemptions “by showing that the delivery of telemedicine services benefits your community and is consistent with the charitable mission of your organization, with an emphasis on interpreting ‘community’ as broadly as possible and as not limited to the traditional definition of community as merely the people who walk through your doors.”

To strengthen your justification for tax exemption, be sure to document: 

  • “instances in which telemedicine has enabled you to reach individuals, such as those living in remote areas, who otherwise might have difficulty obtaining access to healthcare services”; 
  • “instances in which telemedicine has allowed your organization to meet the goals of healthcare reform by reaching people more efficiently and at reduced cost while raising [care] quality”; and 
  • examples of how “telemedicine has allowed your organization to serve uninsured and underinsured patients.” 

5) It is the future of health care. 

Obviously, the law doesn’t move at the same pace as technology, but that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait to jump on this opportunity. If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that convenience is king. People will never stop wanting faster, easier ways to manage the many to-dos in their lives — and that includes going to the doctor.

Think about it: 15 years ago, no one would have dreamed that it would be possible to deposit a check via phone. Fast-forward to the present day, and some folks refuse to set foot inside of a physical bank branch, because doing so would be a waste of time.

And while medical offices probably won’t become totally obsolete, patients likely will come to expect a virtual visit option for routine services, at least. In this case, there’s no reason not to get ahead of the curve. 

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Brooke Andrus

About Brooke Andrus

Brooke Andrus is a blog contributor for eVisit. A journalist by trade, Brooke has more than three years of experience writing specifically about healthcare reform, technology, and best practices.

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