Within any upcoming or ever-changing industry, an ease into new technological generations may not always be simple. Within the healthcare space, a shortage of physicians and finances can be a symptom treated by Telehealth deployment. Current and future changes are happening before us within health IT, and in order for all providers to function at the same pace….well, it’s almost impossible. It can, however, be enhanced by evolving technologies well suited to serve such a purpose.
Taking advantage of state and federal grants, like the FCC’s Rural Health Care Telecommunications Program, allows providers to get reimbursed for costs incurred by upgrading services to an acceptable and/or affordable speed. Without reimbursements, successful adoption and utilization of Telehealth and other related applications can become very costly, especially to those facilities that simply don’t have the budget for it. Although the Telemedicine program serves as a viable and convenient alternative to face-to-face visits, the intent is to supplement, not replace. The American Telemedicine Association’s guidelines for Telemedicine as referred to in a June 2014 FierceHealthIT’s article, are meant to “establish baseline practice expectations for remote consultations in the delivery of primary and urgent care.”
Struggling rural health care providers are inhibited in so many ways from adopting new technologies, the very technologies that could improve their financial state. One way to make ends meet is by seeing more patients, something Telehealth can help facilitate. In some rural areas though, facilities are actually going beyond the intent of the Telemedicine program by trying to replace the face-to-face experience with their actual physician because of the potential cost savings: https://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/ata-telemedicine-meant-supplement-not-totally-replace-person-care/2014-05-16?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internalFor
Where Telehealth is practiced, primary and urgent care services can be delivered using real-time videoconferencing, and telephonic technologies (including laptops and mobile devices.) If this doesn’t constitute convenience, I don’t know what does!! Those participating in the practice of telemedicine are not guaranteeing accurate diagnosis or successful outcomes. But, the issue still remains….the COST of such a project. Like and qualifying facilities in rural areas that have received federal funding are able to take advantage of evolving technologies like Telehealth. Primary care and urgent care telemedicine can play an important role in healthcare delivery. The ability to extend provider efficiencies, better manage patient panels, improve service to distant populations, provide patients with anytime/anywhere access, and shorten time to point of care, results in more cost-effective and expansive delivery of clinical services.