Redefining Patient Engagement with Telemedicine

April 25, 2017

Understanding the importance of Patient Engagement

Healthcare providers have now realized the significance of a participatory health system in improving patient outcomes. A participatory system like telemedicine enables patients to actively engage with physicians in the decision making process and make the right choices about their health. This creates a more patient-centric healthcare ecosystem that increases patient satisfaction while reducing unnecessary costs to providers, payers and patients. Participation however requires bringing changes across organizational policies, processes, technology and most importantly stakeholder attitudes.

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In the current healthcare scenario, factors like long wait time for appointments, travel distance, cost, physician availability etc. creates gap in engaging the patients that affects stakeholders in patient-physician equation. To manage these gaps, healthcare providers now offer patients with portals, scheduling applications, secure messaging, wellness mobile apps, electronic healthcare data access, wearable devices and more. However many of these tools and technologies are not properly interconnected.  The one core technology which could connect all of them into a unified health solution is telemedicine.

How Telemedicine is helping achieve a better patient engagement

Telemedicine has brought patients with anywhere & anytime access to care, and this way it enriches the meaning of patient engagement. Patients no longer need to wait for hours or take a day off from work to consult with a physician. Patients can now check their doctor’s availability, book appointments, check insurance eligibility, know co-payment amount, request follow-ups, get prescriptions reminders, monitor health vitals and more with a mobile app or web portal.

A recent patient engagement survey found that 98% of patients are comfortable communicating with providers via online patient portals,  83% are comfortable communicating with mobile apps, 75% with online chat and 69% with video chat.

Patients want telemedicine and prefer to receive it from their own primary care physician. Patients with chronic health conditions who need constant engagement with their physicians are successfully using telemedicine for the betterment of their health. Telemedicine has applications in a wide range of medical areas, post-surgical follow-ups, emergency care, late night care, geriatric care, prescription refills etc. There are also specific use cases where telemedicine is set to play a huge role in bridging the engagement gaps.

Another survey highlights that 20% of patients would switch to a new primary care physician offering video visits.  Health care providers need to make telehealth a key part of their offering to retain existing patients and bring new ones.  Patient engagement is also a primary objective of several government health reform initiatives now, providing rewards for those who succeed and penalties for those who don’t.

Even providers are catching up, 71% of providers say improving patient engagement is a top priority at their organization so they embrace technology that empowers patient engagement. It is however important to keep in mind that it can take months to implement effective patient engagement strategies, so healthcare organizations should start now to stay ahead.

Challenges in Telemedicine

Telemedicine like any new technology has its own challenges, mainly in the areas of provider reimbursement, EHR interoperability, and the lack of physical examination. Technology providers like Payoda and similar companies are working to overcome such challenges by integrating dispersed systems, wearable devices, and billing into telemedicine platforms to create an omni-channel user experience.

Wearable technology and monitoring devices allow patients to conduct in-home medical examinations during telemedicine sessions with doctors.

Making the most of Telemedicine

Some organisations have telehealth kiosks at workplace to provide telehealth services as a part of employee benefit to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. Information from these devices are feed into telemedicine systems for continuous monitoring & treatment. Telemedicine systems are also integrated with HIPAA compliant messaging and chat, so after a session, patients’ who have queries can securely communicate with their physician.

A research by the University of California at Davis states that their patients have avoided travel of 5 million miles by using telemedicine for clinical appointments and consultations. Those patients have also saved nearly nine years of travel time and about $3 million in travel costs. Now imagine if these numbers are applied on a country scale, they will become massive. Telemedicine leads to better patient engagement, improves outcomes and creates a more participatory healthcare system while saving time and costs.