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The Rise of Telemedicine

July 2016 – Telemedicine is real and is dramatically changing how consumers receive healthcare.

Initially developed about 40 years ago to help alleviate a shortage of physicians in rural areas, telemedicine has developed into a valuable component in healthcare delivery and enables employees and employers to manage rising healthcare costs.

Formally defined, telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status,’’ according to the American Telemedicine Association.  Using tools like two-way video, email, and smartphones, telemedicine is used widely by hospitals, medical specialists and primary care offices to better serve patients and improve outcomes while saving money.

By providing near-immediate access to a medical provider via smartphone or two-way video feed from the job-site or home, an employee can have many issues treated virtually through a well-implemented telehealth program.

A study by Cisco showed 74 percent of consumers are open to a virtual doctor visit. By managing many acute illnesses such as colds, the flu and bladder infections or chronic issues such as diabetes or hypertension through an employer-provided telehealth service, employees and employers can save time and money.  Advantages include:

  • Cost savings – By reducing emergency room and doctor office visits, significant savings can be realized immediately. Because diseases can be caught early and treated before they lead to something more serious, consumers can save through reduced hospitalizations and expensive procedures;
  • Time and productivity – By reducing the time spent in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices along with less time out of the office, employees are more productive and, ultimately, healthier;
  • Convenience – Scheduling a lunch-hour doctor’s appointment can be challenging in today’s busy working world. Using video or phone, consumers workers can follow-up with their physician for a follow-up prescription or a diagnosis and effectively manage health.

There are also some potential challenges, including:

  • Electronic glitches — Loss of connectivity because of phone or computer failure or carrier outage can make communications a challenge. Also, not every patient is as electronically savvy to access telemedicine services;
  • Low use – Many consumers are not aware of the telemedicine benefits available to them.

Telemedicine is rapidly becoming an essential healthcare strategy for small, medium and large companies.

More than one-third of United States companies currently offer telemedicine services and that number is expected to grow to 80 percent by 2018, according to Towers Watson.

While certain types of medical issues require a face-to-face exam, telemedicine is a key component of providing round-the-clock care.

At Healthcare2U, telemedicine is important to help make sure our members remain healthy while holding the line on costs.

Our cloud-based electronic medical records platform – which is compliant with the 1996 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – enables our team of medical professionals to maintain patient records and continuity of care between clinics and telehealth practitioners.

By deploying technology effectively, we are able to treat patients when and where they need it the most.

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