While communication technology is allowing health care professionals to be accessible to patients for specialty care when it may not otherwise be immediately available, we understand that some patients and potential users remain skeptical about the growth of telehealth. We have heard these comments when demonstrating our physical therapy teleMOVEMENT platform.
Responses like this provide the opportunity to open the dialogue about telehealth and on how it can help increase services to our communities.
While these health care delivery media have increased convenience for the busy mom or young professional, the weekend warrior, the homebound or as part of a wellness program for employees, we are aware not everyone is celebrating the emergence of telehealth and online management solutions.
These health care delivery platforms have increased convenience by limiting in-office visits, and many are concerned that it will replace in-person health care, which is not the intent.
We continue to see decreasing segments of the patient population that could benefit from health care services being able to obtain that care. For example, in physical therapy only 7-8% of the population obtains the care they need. If new technology can help people who have challenges with time, geography, transportation, traffic, etc., to obtain or initiate the health care they need, it is a win for the patient population.
Imagine a time when you strain your back and instead of waiting two weeks to get the needed care, you use the internet and go through a step-by-step algorithm for treatment strategies to alleviate your pain and get back in action in a few days. These specialty health care platforms now exist and offer a low cost, conservative treatment plan option.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article on the state of telehealth identifying three primary telehealth trends. The first trend identifies telehealth as an evolving medium that started initially as a means to improve access to care but which is now increasing convenience and will hopefully eventually lower health care costs. Secondly, we are seeing the migration to telehealth grow for acute care addressing more chronic conditions. Lastly, the article identified telehealth as not only being utilized in hospitals, clinics and medical facilities, but also in patients’ homes, at work or on mobile devices.
As the telehealth medium of care evolves it allows increased access, convenience and cost control and will be available to all patients, practices and providers. It will allow solid evidence-based care guidelines, a responsible and thoughtful approach to patient selection for this medium of care delivery, and continued focus on the patient experience to ensure success. It will not be for every patient or every condition but for many patients it will be life-changing.
Bob Kambe is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Avid Physical Therapy clinics of the Inland Empire. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Source: 1) Dorsey ER. Topol, EJ. State of Telehealth. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016; 375;2:154-160.