Many assume that ‘telehealth’- a term that has recently made its way into trending teletech vernacular - is new. In fact though, telemedicine, or the practice of medicine through telecommunications, has been around since 1960 when NASA sent men to space for the first time. This technology is making its way to mainstream medicine is the result of decades of hard work, along with skyrocketing healthcare costs. It’s also proof that soon enough, we’ll look at virtual doctor appointments with the same sense of normalcy that we do mobile check deposits. In part one of this post, we noted some of the many benefits to telehealth solutions along with some of the challenges faced when integrating them into the existing healthcare system.
In this post, we’ll discuss a few measures being taken to make room for this not-so-new, but system changing technology, along with some insight as to what we do at PokitDok to streamline telehealth into existing systems.
To address multiple state medical licensing:
As we previously explained, in order for telehealth docs to treat patients, they need to be licensed in the patient’s state of residence. The Federation of State Medical Boards adopted a model policy late last year to guide the process for state medical boards to implement and regulate telehealth, making strides toward a system evolution.
To address preventative health, patient engagement and employer cost savings:
Companies are thinking outside the box to find ways to get patients the healthcare they need. To name one example, Smart Care Doc sold systems to several Walmart stores, where patients can consult with a telehealth physician in-store. The Walmart office is staffed with a nurse and the private room has instruments to check patients’ blood pressure, pulse, weight, and even do a simple EKG. By bringing telehealth to a frequently visited store, people are encouraged to evolve their definition of a doctor visit in a digestible and gradual way. It also shows people, in a place they often frequent, how accessible telemedicine can be- and encourages them to be proactive with their health and that of their loved ones.
To address widespread trust/adoption:
When the government gets on board with a policy, it sets a precedent. As of January 2015, Medicaid covers telehealth services in 43 states and the District of Columbia, thereby giving it its seal of approval. Hopefully the other states will put their policies into place for both CMS and private insurers to cover these services.
How we support the evolution:
PokitDok is a cloud-based API platform designed to make healthcare transactions more efficient. Telehealth platforms can build on our technology, allowing the management of online healthcare transactions from eligibility checks and cross-EMR scheduling, to provider referrals and claims submissions.
What that means is that by integrating our technology, telehealth solutions can check patient eligibility in real time (stay tuned for a demo of our new widget) and schedule appointments across multiple EMRs. In the event that telehealth is not the appropriate medium for treatment, our provider search API can find a doctor within a health system or a specified zip code range. In the telehealth model as it stands, patients are mostly paying out of pocket. As time passes, telehealth partners are increasingly integrating with employers and health plans to offer telehealth as a covered benefit. In either case, our claims API (X12) automatically submits a patient claim, instead of the patient having to manually submit it him or herself. Even if the visit is not covered by insurance, a ‘shadow’ claim could be submitted (depending on the patient’s place of presence), thereby counting against the deductible on their high deductible health plan.
To sum it all up:
The telehealth field is changing rapidly, with acceptance growing from both patients and providers. Continued technological advances in hardware and software are making these visits easier, and it’s not hard to imagine the day in the near future when it will be just as routine to connect to a doctor online as it is to go to an office. Similarly, a StartUp Health report showed that investors poured $6.5 billion into digital health last year alone, a 125% increase from 2013. This support shows the dedication, needs and potential gains to be made by integrating technology into the health ecosystem as it stands.
See you next year at ATA and remember, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead.
The opinions expressed in this blog are of the authors and not of PokitDok's. The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice.
Tags: Dev, Enterprise