June 1, 2019

Telemedicine - Transforming and Transcending Healthcare Through Technology

71% patients intend to save time from avoiding in-person doctor visits.

64% patients prefer instant access to a doctor

54% patients feel more confident attending to their family with online video doctor visits.

A 2014 Merritt Hawkins survey revealed that the approximate wait time to see a family physician is 19.5 days. (1) following the wait, the average patient will actually be seen for only 7.7 minutes. (2) Dissatisfaction on both sides will likely pervade, driving doctors and patients to seek alternatives.

Telemedicine services are not only TECH-SAVVY but also are the need of the hour. The American Association of Medical Colleges estimate that there may be a dearth of some 40,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) in the coming decade. Virtual health care services are aimed and designed to not only compensate for this shortage but also to establish a more fulfilling doctor-patient relationship.

Complexities of the traditional healthcare process such as looking for experienced, expert physicians, getting an immediate appointment, payment procedure, etc makes it inaccessible to many patients who need an urgent and immediate health care attention or those who are traveling to the other side of the world and are looking for dependable health care services without any hassles.

Virtual primary care targets on the time saved, money saved and distress due to waiting lessened. What more is there is a 24*7 access to the access to the doctors and from any part of the world. Get connected, mention your current ailments to the doctor, get diagnosed and start treatment immediately! It is as simple as that.  

Virtual primary care leads to prescription refills, more frequent communication, convenience and potential cost savings.

?Telemedicine is the natural evolution of healthcare? ? Andrew Watson, MD.

Telehealth services can be availed by both the types of patients who suffer from chronic ailments and are incapable due to health reasons to visit a doctor's office and also patients who are sick with acute disease. Virtual health care can rather more aptly handle patient cases beyond prescription by a quick follow-up by video conference that can ensure that the patient is following their physician's directions, patient?s compliance with respect to prescription doses and schedules can be ascertained and also inquire about the development of any troublesome side effects. 

The boom of employer-based health insurance coverage in America began in 1940s, prior to which the Americans paid directly with cash for virtually all of their health care. As the third-party health insurance gained popularity, cash payment as a means for compensation of medical services suffered downhill. This system gained access to all Doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals who were increasingly reimbursed through third-party insurance. However, the pitfalls in this system are lack of transparency that hid the true cost of services, leaving patients with the false notion that their employers compensated for their medical expenses, except for the occasional co-pay, deductible, or coinsurance. Nevertheless, it also became increasingly complex and costly, and more economically inefficient.

Mode of payment such as direct pay is a win -win situation for both the patients and the physicians. The preferred mode of payment is direct pay by most physicians as it enables them to give more time with fewer patients and thus a thorough case study is possible. There is no time constraint which makes doctors to give quality time and boosts availability of the doctor. Direct pay does away with bulky paperwork such as prior authorisations and filing for reimbursements. With this workload getting off the back of the physicians they are able to generate more of their valuable time towards patients care. Direct pay is considered as one of the preferred and efficient alternatives to traditional health insurances as it eliminates middle men, co pays, unnecessary charges, deductibles and enhances doctor ? patient relationship.

Direct pay health care comprises of a one-time annual fee that entitles one a 24/7 access to a primary care physician, same day appointments and an efficient doctor-patient relationship. In that regards, direct pay can also be referred to as "concierge medicine" as it promises to delivers three things- negligible wait times, better patient-physician relationship and high -quality health care. Although it may be prudent to procure secondary coverage for catastrophic illnesses. Direct pay also eliminates payment conflicts as it does away with the third- party administrator.

Third-party payment system is not a conducive mode of doctor?s compensation as it is based on the number of patients he sees per day. This can jeopardise the amount of time a physician intends to spend on each patient. Whereas a direct-pay model ensures that the doctor is already compensated directly when he sees a patient. there is an increasing frustration with third-party reimbursement, where direct pay model serves an effective and satisfying alternative for doctors and patients.

Direct primary care is an effective alternative for many Americans and is here to stay for good.

References-

  1. Hawkins, ?Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicaid and Medicare Acceptance Rates,? p. 6.
  2. Lauren Block et al., ?In the Wake of the 2003 and 2011 Duty Hours Regulations, How Do Internal Medicine Interns Spend Their Time?? Journal of General Internal Medicine, Vol. 28, No. 8 (August 2013), pp. 1042?1047.
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