Do Telemedicine Benefits Outweigh the Costs?

By: on March 20, 2018

When it comes to reaping telemedicine benefits, things can get complex:

  • Cost can vary widely, depending on things like feature integration and deployment.
  • Functionality can range in usefulness, depending on the type of practice.

Despite such ambiguities, one thing is certain: implementing the right telemedicine services at the right time is imperative for your small practice to stay competitive.

According to research by Gartner (report available to Gartner clients) 2018 is going to be a big year for telemedicine. In fact, their annual CIO survey revealed that it was the second-highest priority for spending in 2018.

To provide some valuable insight into the benefits of telemedicine for small practices, we spoke with three medical providers about their experience with telemedicine.

Dr. Mayer Uses Telemedicine to Serve More Patients

Dr. John Mayer is licensed in six states as an associate staff psychologist through Doctor on Demand, and has been a provider with this telemedical service for three years. He primarily uses video conferencing to accommodate patients who live outside driving distance from his office—both nationally and internationally.

“I’ve always had a commitment to reaching people to whom mental health services are difficult to come by … and telemedicine is a perfect vehicle for this. It is community mental health at its finest.”

Dr. Mayer, associate staff psychologist through Doctor on Demand

When asked what prompted him to begin offering telemedical conferencing to his patients, he pointed to the ability to expand his reach to so many patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet with a psychologist. To Dr. Mayer, telemedicine and mental health care are a perfect marriage.

For the patient, he listed the following telemedicine benefits:

  • Convenience
  • Affordability
  • Ease in establishing rapport
  • Lowered resistance to treatment

And for the mental health care providers like himself, the advantages he’s seen firsthand include:

  • Ability to focus more on treatment
  • Reduced paperwork and scheduling demands
  • Customer service for addressing technical issues
Dr. Mayer’s recommendation for small practices considering telemedicine:

Go for it. The benefits far outweigh the costs, and the ability to reach more patients quicker without dealing with paperwork means providers will see ROI quickly.

Dr. Olp Uses Telemedicine to Communicate More Rapidly

Dr. Ashlie Olp is the lead direct primary care physician at Olp Family Medicine in Carmel, Indiana. While she sees all types of patients at her family medicine practice, Dr. Olp specializes in women’s health.

Dr. Olp was inspired to start a Direct Primary Care (DPC) practice after experiencing the struggle of connecting with a qualified provider from the patient’s perspective.

“Everyone should be heard and given adequate time to tell their story, not just a 15 minute office visit to check vitals and boxes on a chart.”

Dr. Olp, lead direct primary care physician at Olp Family Medicine

Dr. Olp uses Hale telemedical software. Patients can seek advice about particular issues and Dr. Olp can respond quickly:

“I am able to reply within seconds, minutes or hours (at the very most) […] with ideas and options for them to try out so we can decide together if they should come visit me at the office. It saves them a trip many times, and it allows them to ask from the comfort of their own home.”

In addition to saving time for both herself and her patients, Dr. Olp talked about the benefit of having immediate access to a doctor as one of the best things about telemedicine:

“Usually, patients have one thing they really want to discuss, and they want to discuss it in the moment. So [telemedicine] also addresses issues in real time if needed, rather than days later when [patients] can finally get in.”

Dr. Olp’s recommendation for small practices considering telemedicine:

It depends. In her words, “not all problems can be managed via telemedicine, but for those that can, it is very convenient.” If your practice specializes in treating conditions that can be diagnosed and managed remotely, telemedicine is an essential investment.

Támara Hill Uses Telemedicine to Make Patients Feel More Comfortable

Támara Hill is a clinical trauma therapist, consultant and author who works with children and adolescents dealing with mood disorders, trauma and other behavioral disorders. She also works with adults dealing with grief, loss and/or major life transitions.

She has used the telemedical provider VSee for over two years to meet her patients where they are and make the counseling process as easy for them as possible.

“The fact that [my patients] can also have a mini session with me by phone or their computer is comforting to many of them. Clients who have experienced severe trauma or extreme symptoms of anxiety benefit a great deal. They don’t have to leave the safety of their home.”

“I think there is a big future for telemedicine.”

Támara Hill, clinical trauma therapist

Hill’s experience with counseling young children, however, has taught her that telemedicine might not be right for every patient: “No child can sit still for 1 hour to do a session on their phone. They won’t connect.”

Dr. Hill’s recommendation for small practices considering telemedicine:

Do the research before you make the decision. It is absolutely a valuable tool with applications for many different types of practices, but you need to know for sure you’re one of them before committing to it. As Hill put it, “There are so many variables that need to be considered before it is used with a client.”

The Final Verdict

So, what’s the verdict? Do small practices need to offer telemedicine in order to stay competitive and satisfy patients? The answer is yes. Your small practice should absolutely be offering at least some telemedicine applications to your patients.

According to a recent survey of patients we conducted in 2017, telemedicine is a great way to make them happy. It’s also a very useful way to find, connect with and serve patients, according to Hill and Drs. Mayer and Olp, but first you need to understand which applications best fit your practice and your patients’ needs.

Fortunately, there are telemedicine software providers that allow you to choose which features to utilize and which ones to save for later, and many of these vendors can grow with your practice as you and your patients become more comfortable using remote health care software.

To learn more about those vendors, and others that meet your practice’s unique needs, call our team of advisors at (855) 998-8505.

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