It’s 2017 and we’re still waiting for the flying car (well, one we can afford). However, one futuristic vision is not only here – it’s become a way of life.
I’m talking about video communication.
Sure, applications like Skype and FaceTime have been popular for a while. But recently, video has exploded into the business world like never before. (Just ask any Cisco employee where we’d be without WebEx.)
And nowhere are the benefits of video felt more acutely than in healthcare. According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), more than 15 million Americans receive some kind of remote medical care, and that number is only expected to grow.
Routine doctor visits can now be done from any location – house, car, office, and beyond. Patients can get specialist consultations from world-renowned experts, even if they live in the middle of nowhere. One sure sign of success? Many payers are getting on board by covering virtual appointments.
But there are still some hurdles to overcome before this new tech becomes routine.
Patient and provider attitudes vary
Not everyone is ready to embrace telemedicine just yet. In a recent Medscape survey, 61% of patients said they were comfortable with receiving prescriptions based on email or video visits – but only about half that number (30%) of physicians agreed they would feel comfortable prescribing based on a digital consultation. Perceived liability risk may play a large part in that attitude: In the same survey, 60% of providers named malpractice and liability concerns as a barrier.
Physicians do seem to see the promise of the technology, however. A slim majority (54%) of providers in the survey agreed with the statement, “Telemedicine can adequately assess patients for routine medical issues, such as follow-up consultations or chronic disease management.”
Another survey, done by the ATA, polled 429 patients on their use of telemedicine. While only 22% had actually used it, nearly all said they wanted to receive care remotely. The biggest barrier? Their provider didn’t offer it, or they didn’t know how to find a provider who did.
Clearly, the consumer demand is there. Providers are slowly getting on board. Now, it’s not a matter of if, but when telemedicine becomes as ubiquitous as email or texting.
Getting started with telemedicine
Ready to join the telemedicine revolution? One key to your success is getting everyone in your organization excited and on board with your plan. Here are a few tips to overcome barriers and hesitation.
1. To get buy-in, communicate value: not only to the C-Suite but also to providers.
Consider all the stakeholders who could be affected by your plan. Be prepared to share answers to the following questions:
- What are the organization’s goals with telemedicine? Is it to reduce costs, increase convenience, improve patient outcomes, reduce physician burn-out, and/or grow the business? Share details. (These are all potential benefits of telemedicine – visit the ATA to get more information.)
- What ROI are you expecting as an organization in one year, five years, 10 years? Help them visualize the long-term benefits.
- How will you help keep liability risks low for providers? Is your insurance policy up to date? Are there any concerns with licensing? How will you address security? Knowing these answers may help ease provider anxiety.
2. Get a champion (or a committee of champions).
Seek out providers who are enthusiastic about telemedicine and encourage them to share information with colleagues. These folks can also serve as your implementation committee once your telemedicine program is off and running.
3. Run a patient education campaign.
Study after study shows that patients want telemedicine but don’t know where to get it – or don’t know if their insurance policy covers it. Make sure they not only know it exists but also understand how to access it.
4. Have the right technology – or a plan to acquire it.
Can your network handle the increased bandwidth – and is it secure? What about video quality? How will your system operate with other technology already in place? It’s critical that you ensure a smooth transition for your end users.
There’s a lot to think about when implementing telemedicine in your organization, but there are a lot of rewards to gain, too. Have questions about the technology aspect of your plan? Cisco is here to help. Contact us to find out more about our solutions, such as Extended Care, that can help you join the telehealth movement.
And check out this case study that demonstrates the value of using telemedicine for a renowned specialist consultation, even though the patient lives in a rural location, hundreds of miles away.