While telehealth, especially telepsychiatry and telemental health care, are not new, the treatment method is experiencing a renaissance of sorts as access to technology expands beyond big facilities and urban areas. Telehealth has traditionally utilized a “hub and spoke” or “site-to-site” model. In this set up, the patient still presents to a facility, but the provider is remote. This allowed for better provider coverage at multiple facilities, but it did not directly address some of the larger barriers in healthcare delivery.
The first proliferation of telehealth was definitely a step in the right direction. At a minimum, it has shown healthcare providers and administrators that remote care can still be high quality and simple to deliver. This reinforcement has prepared the telehealth company and the medical community for the next step of care: delivering medically appropriate services directly into the home and removing the originating site requirement.
We’re graduating from Telehealth 101 to next-generation care delivery.
Up until recently, transportation barriers have been addressed as an issue to resolve for healthcare providers rather than a barrier that actually keeps patients from receiving reliable and consistent care. Long drives and traveling to multiple sites reduce the amount of care that a physician can provide. Increasing available treatment hours, however, does not directly assist patients who do not have reliable transportation or who are unable to travel. Those patients are still excluded from services.
By delivering telehealth services into the home using a reliable and secure platform, patients who are limited by transportation can now receive quality care. Patients without access to reliable public transportation are not precluded from meeting with their providers. Furthermore, telehealth reduces costs from the payer perspective by reducing healthcare sponsored transportation, which can be expensive and frequently unreliable.
Keeping patients in the home when it’s appropriate also reduces the childcare burden that most affects many patients’ ability to access care. While both mother and fathers arrange child care to go to the doctor, the issues disproportionately impact low-income mothers. While they may be able to access transportation through their insurance coverage, these options are usually only for the patient. Children are unable to access them to accompany the parent and cannot “tag along.” Impower, a large behavioral health organization in Central Florida, has been able to deliver care to single mothers who would otherwise be unable to access it by delivering it into the home on a schedule where the parent can be engaged rather than distracted.
Most physician’s offices and treatment programs operate on banker’s hours. Patients have to make it into the office between 9 and 5. For many, missing work isn’t an option, so they forgo care to protect their employment. By offering telehealth that can be accessed from anywhere, patients can connect with providers from a secure location on their lunch breaks rather than using personal time or missing a half-day of work.
Not every patient or situation will qualify for telehealth services. Further, a patient who qualified last time might not meet the standard the next time. This can be addressed with internal protocols and by using a platform like Mend that gives you tools to triage patients to the right type of care while informing patients who don’t qualify.
Some groups will only allow a certain number of telehealth visits before they require a follow-up in-person. Others will allow unlimited telehealth visits for a certain set of diagnoses but limit access for those who do not fit the criteria. There are groups who use combinations of site-to-site and in-home access so they can get vitals are regular intervals while still reducing physician travel.
Work with a partner who understands that importance of a customized workflow and can offer the tools to take the burden of enforcing that workflow off of your staff.
Some state laws have not kept the pace of the technological revolution, and what’s on the books still restricts telehealth care to an approved originating site, though these laws are being changed daily. The difference varies considerably by state. The Center For Connected Health Policy is an excellent resource on location restrictions based on current state law.
Site-to-site telehealth was a huge boon for provider convenience, but it has not entirely bridged the gap for patients who face many barriers to treatment. By delivering medically appropriate care into the home, facilities and providers can offer high quality care to those who would not otherwise have access. For more information on how this can affect your practice or facility, request a demo above. One of our workflow specialists will be happy to walk you through how this fits for your organization.