This year is the year for telemedicine to shine.
There are big predictions for the year 2017 and a little uncertainty, but rest assured that it will be a big one for telemedicine in 2017. The main theme you’ll come across time and time again is growth. More employers will be offering the benefit, more health care providers will provide easier to access care, more organizations will use it in more innovative ways, and more patients will see a doctor virtually.
Here are a few ways telemedicine will see its biggest year of growth yet:
More and More Employers Will Understand the Benefit
According to the Large Employers’ 2017 Health Plan Design survey, nine in 10 employers said they plan to make telehealth services available to employees, compared to 70 percent of employers in 2016. RelyMD client UNC Lenoir Health Care saw a significant amount of savings after providing telemedicine to their employees, nearly $60,000 in 8 months. By helping their employees avoid high-cost health care facilities such as urgent cares and emergency departments (when they’re not experiencing a true emergency), organizations are saving thousands each month. Included is the added benefit to employees themselves, they’re saving time by not having to drive to and wait in a doctor’s office to diagnose a case of pink eye and by tackling health issues earlier, they’re avoiding spending their PTO days sick in bed.
Use-Cases for Telemedicine Will Actualize
Direct-to-consumer telemedicine has been around for long enough that there has been a general acceptance and while there is still room for growth, often patients are seeking out online care on their own. Hospitals, health systems, primary care physicians, and other specialists are now offering telemedicine as an additional way to access a doctor. Telemedicine in 2017 will offer more and more types of health care facilities offering a doctor on demand along with organizations not typically known for quality health care. A few to look out for in 2017 include:
- Nursing homes and post-acute care facilities
- Correctional facilities
- Primary and high schools
- Colleges and universities
Value-Based Care will Live On in 2017
No matter the outcome of the Affordable Care Act, value-based care is still a proven approach to improving the cost and delivery of health care. Per Navigant, 46% of hospitals are already participating in Medicare ACOs or bundled payments which have already contributed to an approximate 20% reduction in Medicare payments and a significant decrease in length of stay and readmissions. Included in the Next Generation ACO Model released last year, the Telehealth Expansion Waiver allows the use of telemedicine to patients living in both rural and non-rural areas, expanding the service to all members of the ACO. In addition, the patient can now receive access to care from home.
More Patients Will Be Treated Online with Telemedicine in 2017
A report published by IGH Technology predicts that the number of patients who use telehealth services will rise to approximately 7 million by 2018. Tracking back to 2013 when less than 350,000 patients were seen online, we’re in for an incredible rate of growth over the next few years.
Patients are the driving force that makes health care and telemedicine a success. Seeing the number of individual patients who utilize the service increase will only allow for greater growth throughout 2017 and beyond. Organizations looking to develop a telemedicine strategy for any type of use should look to patient satisfaction as their ultimate goal to drive utilization and repeat usage.
Written by Chelsea Raegen, January 2, 2017
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