Is There a Real Time Advantage to Telemedicine?

Time is money, and nowhere is this truer than in the world of healthcare.

One of the advantages of using telemedicine is time savings. Both patients and physicians are utilizing video visits to be more effective and save time. When compared head-to-head with patients who have the same needs, a video proves to be faster than the in-person equivalent.

Video visits are proven to improve the efficiency at which a practice operates and reduces time spent with patients without sacrificing quality of care. Video visits are effective at saving time because they combine charting with patient analysis, reduce late and missed visits, focus on information exchange and improve physician and patient availability.

While these numbers seem to paint a positive picture, it is important to evaluate how this reduction in visit times is occurring. Video visits allow physicians to work more efficiently with patients by combining a physician's ability to chart the visit while streaming a live video session, which enables the doctor's attention to remain on the screen.

Also, video visits focus on follow-up or acute conditions that tend to have lower visit times; nevertheless, there are several other factors to explain why this time reduction is occurring. Due to the convenience of video visits, patients will miss fewer appointments and are more likely to show up for their visits on time. Missed visits result in lost income and productivity for physicians and the practice, and late arrivals may cause physicians to run behind, thus delaying other patient visits.

The average time a physician spends with a patient in the U.S. is 17.4 minutes. While many physicians feel pressure to reduce visit times, they are also challenged to balance patient satisfaction and quality of care with a sense of urgency to move patients through the process faster. Telemedicine is helping physicians with this challenge—to become more time efficient without sacrificing quality of care or patient satisfaction.

Let's assume under the current physician appointment model an efficient physician can process 28 patients a day, which represents four patients an hour for seven hours. On average, physicians who use telemedicine are seeing a reduction in visit times by about 20 percent, with the average visit time in one study being as low as 12 minutes. While this may not seem like a significant improvement, upon further exploration, the implications are far more reaching.

Another reason why physicians experience time savings using video is the focus on information exchange that occurs during video visits. Telemedicine visits tend to be much more focused than in-person visits, as the spectrum of care physicians provide is limited to what they can do remotely. Telemedicine visits are often focused on screening or maintenance of the patient, allowing the physician to focus on next steps rather than troubleshooting solutions during a visit.

Lastly, physicians can offer expanded hours of availability when providing video visits. Whether it is seeing patients during their lunch hour or late from home on Wednesdays, with telemedicine physicians have more flexibility to see patients due to the reduced barriers surrounding patient and physician location. This flexibility nets significant savings when a patient who had to cancel is suddenly able to attend their normally scheduled visit time or simply move their visit to an after-hours time due to the power and flexibility of video.

Certain types of patient visits lend themselves to face-to-face interactions with physicians while many visits can be accomplished through telemedicine. Depending on the circumstance, tele-medicine can deliver financial benefits to a physician's practice that are not available when a patient visits a doctor's office.

Conservatively, under telemedicine, a physician can see an additional four patients a day with video visits, charging $60 for the average visit. Over the course of a year, this process would net the physician an additional $62,000 in practice revenue. The savings go both ways as well. One study found that a physician practice was able to save its patients nearly $3 million in travel costs over the nine years it had been offering telemedicine, with the average patient saving four hours per year in travel time. With financial benefits available to both patients and physicians, it is no wonder why telemedicine is in such high demand.

A doctor's time is invaluable, and the crisis of time is no longer an expense that can be wasted on administrative duties or inefficient patient visits. Equally, a patient's time should be considered, as the transition to urgent care facilities shows a growing consumer need for on-demand care.

By improving the efficiency of care for the patient and physician, we now have the opportunity to transition to a style of care where technology-driven solutions are the catalyst for delivering patient-centered care while empowering physicians to focus on treatment and diagnosis. The telemedicine visit is enabling patient appointments to occur faster than ever before, and, as a result, will produce a more efficient and effective healthcare system.

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Saturday, 15 December 2018

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