In the first half of this series, we explored some real-world examples of how telemedicine software providers are changing the nature of the healthcare industry. In this second part of our in-depth look at the evolution of telemedicine, we review the challenges facing telemedicine software providers in their efforts to inspire widespread adoption of telemedicine solutions.
Telemedicine challenges include inconsistent support throughout the healthcare infrastructure
Today, according to the American Telemedicine Association, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted telemedicine parity laws, which require private insurance companies to cover telemedicine services in the same way in-office healthcare visits are covered. Many insurers either cover at least some telehealth services, with many other insurers showing an increasing interest in the field of telemedicine as the concept gains popularity.
Regulations over the healthcare industry, such as HIPAA, have traditionally been significant barriers of entry for telemedicine software developers looking to create solutions to many telemedicine challenges. Regulations such as those imposed by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, which regulate and strengthen privacy protection requirements of software solutions, are stringent. However, as we discuss in our post, “Building HIPAA compliant mobile apps can be tricky – don’t go alone”, navigating HIPAA compliance when it comes to software applications is challenging for telemedicine software providers, but not impossible.
In addition to the compliance with extensive HIPAA software security and privacy requirements, telemedicine software providers are also forced to navigate extremely convoluted state-level regulations. Despite 27 states and the District of Columbia having enacted telemedicine-related parity laws, the laws and requirements are inconsistent from state to state, forcing telemedicine software providers to tailor their services to meet the requirements of each state in which they operate. Combined, the documents published by the American Telemedicine Association outlining the complicated coverage and reimbursement requirements and the standards and licensure requirements of each state runs about 190 pages, and include a grading system showing how well each state currently handles telemedicine endeavors.
For telemedicine software providers, increased efficiency and expanded coverage options mean profit
In an industry niche worth $11.6 billion in 2011 that is expected to grow to $27.3 billion in 2016, it’s necessary for telemedicine to truly be embraced at an industry-level. Increasing buy-in at all levels necessitates caregivers to understand the bottom-line profitability telemedicine injects into a medical practice.
In a very direct sense, the use of telemedicine mobile platforms increases bandwidth to treat patients by providing patients an additional avenue to connect with their primary care physician. In extending a service provider’s schedule and ability to treat patients they might not otherwise be able to see, telemedicine cuts down on unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, urgent care facilities, and for-profit retail clinics. Statistics from a study performed several years ago show that roughly 71% of these visits, which cost upwards of $6 billion annually, are unnecessary or avoidable and treatable in a non-emergency setting . By keeping such treatment with the primary care provider, costs to the healthcare industry are decreased while increasing the doctor’s own billable visits. These virtual visits can also help to fill gaps in daily schedules or to take the place of cancelled appointments, thus improving efficiency and increasing revenue streams.
Behind the scenes, there is a less direct cost-savings that comes with the use of telemedicine systems. Introducing the ability to treat patients beyond the confines of an expensive office space can decrease overhead costs. Telemedicine also improves an office’s ability to follow-up on missed appointments; more actively perform after-care follow-ups, and improve the ability to capture required documentation during off-site or after-consultations. In lessening healthcare provider malpractice exposure and liability, the unforeseen costs of doing business can be mitigated or even eliminated.
Patients see the benefits of saving and accessibility despite the challenges faced by telemedicine
Telemedicine systems benefit patients in many of the same ways they benefit service providers. By providing expanded access to doctors and specialists, patients who might have been forced to seek more expensive or time-consuming treatment through emergency room services or urgent care facilities now have a more affordable and convenient option.
Convenience goes hand in hand with ensuring patients follow treatment guidelines, and in many cases this requires follow-up visits. Through the use of applications built by telemedicine software providers, patients minimize unnecessary costs and time out their own schedule in order to follow through on after-care, ongoing care, and remote monitoring requirements. This allows patients to participate more actively in the monitoring and management of their health conditions. The savings and convenience carry over through the minimization of multiple, unnecessary office visits in order to consult with the proper specialists or care providers. Telemedicine solutions can then be seen to be a vital component for patients to better streamline and control their healthcare experience.
Always trust the experts
When it comes to your health and well-being, you’re obviously going to seek out a certified professional. Similarly, if you’re a doctor or a hospital looking to expand into the healthcare industry and you want to implement a healthcare solution for your client base, you want a firm familiar with challenges facing the healthcare industry.
Kays Harbor Technologies have experience building robust and extensive healthcare software solutions for clients in the healthcare industry, and we can easily tailor a solution to match your business needs.