The customer is always right. We all know that’s not exactly the case, but part of providing good service to consumers is listening to their concerns and complaints.
That sentiment used to apply more to industries such as retail and banking. However, with the rapid rise of healthcare consumerism, providers now must adopt more patient-centric tools — or lose out to competing practices.
Solutions that provide the convenience and accessibility patients want are paramount. An example is virtual care, which exploded onto the scene during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most patients know the most utilized virtual care type: telehealth.
Sure, the use of virtual care has slowed down since the height of the pandemic. But, its adoption remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, with 14–17 percent of visits done through telehealth compared to only one percent in February 2020. It’s no surprise, then, that the telehealth market in the United States is estimated to display seven-fold growth by 2025.
Perks for Patients
Just how does telehealth help patients? Those who utilize virtual care have access to the following:
- Elimination of long and unnecessary wait times
- Improved and less costly emergency care
- Enhanced understanding of post-hospitalization care plans
- Increased access to care, both preventive and medical, for residents living in rural communities
- Less exposure to infectious diseases, especially for those who are chronically ill, pregnant, elderly or immunocompromised
- Reduced or eliminated need for travel to access care
Telehealth also gives patients more expansive and private access to mental health resources. That accessibility is important because, as of March 2023, 160 million Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages.
Perks for Healthcare Providers
It’s not only patients asking for telehealth to be part of their healthcare journey, although almost 88 percent of patients want to continue using it for nonurgent consultations. The research noted by the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that physicians have overwhelmingly responded positively to its implementation:
Roughly 85 percent indicated that telehealth increased the timeliness of care.
Approximately 75 percent said telehealth allowed them to deliver high-quality care.
More than 70 percent were motivated to increase telehealth use.
Also, according to available data, the number of physicians reporting telehealth as an active skill has doubled as of 2020, from 20 percent to just less than 40 percent. Through virtual care, healthcare providers can:
- See more patients in less time, resulting in increased reimbursement and patient satisfaction
- Securely access shared records from a mobile device
- Quickly and cost-effectively communicate with other physicians on patient care
- Accurately record clinical data
- Provide more access to lower-cost care for low-acuity patient encounters
- Experience fewer staffing inefficiencies
- Promote easier access to specialists and subspecialists as necessary
- Support consumer-directed care and value-based models
Used most commonly in the medical fields of dermatology, urology, chronic disease, intensive care and mental health, telehealth also gives physicians a resource to reduce the cost of care. For doctors who serve residents living in rural areas of the U.S., the technology enables them to connect virtually with clinicians at larger hospitals who may be able to diagnose a serious health problem better or offer more extensive treatment options.
Expanded Telehealth Rules and Regulations
The increased utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic was partly spurred by policymakers’ easing of rules and regulations. Recent legislation authorized an extension — through December 31, 2024 — of many of these Medicare telehealth flexibilities, including:
- FQHCs and RHCs can serve as a distant site provider for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services
- Medicare patients can receive telehealth services in their home
- There are no geographic restrictions for originating site for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services
- Some non-behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms
- An in-person visit within six months of an initial behavioral/mental telehealth service and annually after that is not required
- All eligible Medicare providers can provide telehealth services
Almost every state Medicaid program has some form of coverage for telehealth services. Many private healthcare payers are embracing coverage for many such services. And, along with the District of Columbia, 35 states have enacted “parity” laws, which generally require payers to cover services provided via telehealth the same way they would reimburse for services provided in person.
RingRx offers a secure cloud-based platform for healthcare organizations, enabling you to meet patient preferences — including virtual care through phone calls and secure messaging using our mobile app. For a free trial of our phone system designed specifically for the healthcare industry, email us or call 1-888-9860.