By Dr. Lyle Berkowitz
Telehealth’s benefits are numerous and include improved patient access to care, greater patient satisfaction and better connection between patients and their caregivers, according to Deloitte.
So it should come as no surprise that demand for telehealth is expected to surge in the coming years as improving reimbursement and advances in technology make this emerging mode of care delivery more pervasive. In fact, by 2025, the U.S. telemedicine market is expected to exceed $64 billion, while the global market is expected to reach $130 billion by that time, according to a recent report by Global Market Insights.
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However, the U.S. health system won’t realize these financial and clinical advantages without first obtaining buy-in from health systems and their physicians. To guide physicians toward embracing this disruptive technology, health system executives must demonstrate strong leadership, provide relevant data and education, align financial incentives and change their organizations’ daily culture.
First, health systems leaders must debunk misperceptions about telehealth and emphasize how virtual visits can improve quality, efficiency and financial performance at an organization. This approach involves creating data driven reports on the “3 M’s” (Metrics, Money and eMotion) that help shape physicians’ attitudes and behavior:
Physicians are scientists, and respect insights that are derived from data. Acceptance of telehealth starts with providing physicians with the facts and data that illustrate the problems that telehealth can fix. Leadership can begin the education process by creating the following four key reports that quantify common health-system issues:
• Access: Identify what percentage of patients can obtain same-day appointments with their primary care physicians (PCPs). If it is difficult for new and/or established patients to schedule urgent care or annual exams, they will look elsewhere.
• Leakage: Review the 10-year trend in percentage of minor but urgent cases — such as sinusitis or urinary tract infections — that are being seen by PCPs. It is likely declining. Telehealth will not “steal” these visits from PCPs because patients have already been gradually switching to urgent care, retail clinics and similar settings for these types of cases. Teleheath is actually a way for health systems and provider to reclaim these visits.
• Burnout: Compare a physician’s average relative value units (RVUs) per visit with their average appointment time over the past decade. By looking at appointment time and RVU trends, organizations can identify signs that physicians are at risk of burnout, such as physicians being asked to do more in less time (the ratio is going up too fast) or physicians not working at top-of-license (the ratio is going down too fast).