Proof that Telemedicine Innovation is Shaping the Future of Healthcare Delivery

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival series, which is designed to get your wheels turning about the future of health IT. Today’s trending topic is on innovations in healthcare!

Forget the stethoscope, technology innovations are bringing about a new era of healthcare. As telemedicine technology grows in popularity, the doctor’s bag may be a thing of the past, quickly being replaced by a mix of video conferencing, electronic-document sharing, and mobile apps. Telemedicine is already alive and well across medical institutions spanning every corner of the globe. It’s easy to get excited about these new tools–some of them are downright cool. More important than the “coolness factor” that these gadgets bring to healthcare are the profound outcomes of their use. In terms of results, the proof is in the pudding.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how telemedicine implementations are improving the delivery of care as we know it.

1. Facilitate Rapid Stroke Diagnosis and Treatment

According to the Partners Telestroke Center, when it comes to the assessment and treatment of stroke patients, “time is brain.” The faster a patient receives proper treatment for stroke, the better the chances for recovery. Unfortunately, some hospitals are unable to transfer patients fast enough to get them into the hands of the right experts. This is where the use of video conferencing and image-sharing technology has been life saving.

In Alberta, Canada the results of telemedicine to treat stroke victims are profound. Research shows that effective telestroke treatment in remote areas contributed to a 50% decrease in costly and time-consuming emergency room transfers from rural areas to the University Hospital. Some remote hospitals reported a decrease in transfers as high as 92%.


2. Simplify Dermatology Consultations

Telemedicine opens a whole new world of opportunity for dermatology, also known as teledermatology.  Image-sharing applications like the “medical selfie” provide a HIPAA secure way of sharing images of rashes and wounds and opens up lines of digital communication. Once a picture is sent by the patient and received through a web portal, the dermatologist can provide feedback electronically on whether or not the case requires an in-person visit.

A new study finds that taking a photo of a skin lesion and sending it to your dermatologist for analysis may be a valuable piece of eczema care. Patients participating in an online care group shared photos of their skin outbreaks to dermatologist who assessed the photos and devised treatment plans. One year later, 38% of patients participating in the online care group achieved clearance or near clearance of eczema compared to 44% of patients who received in-person care.


3. Improve Access to Healthcare in Rural Areas

Telemedicine eliminates geographical barriers and grants access to medical services that otherwise would not be available in rural locations.  Additionally, it promotes and extends second opinion programs.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in virtual second opinions.  These services allow patients to consult with experts all around the world, without ever having to leave their homes.  In return, major hospital systems can expand their reach, in some cases even providing second opinions to patients in distant countries.  Virtual second opinion programs can reduce administration / processing time, increase qualified surgical candidates for medical facilities, and provide a simple-to-use platform to track incoming patient records.

Barrow Neurological Institute, an international leader in a wide variety of neurological conditions raised the bar by implementing an online portal that makes it easy for patients to upload complex images and reports in order to request a consultation. Within 30 days of rolling out the service, approximately 20% of online referrals resulted in new surgeries, many of them for out-of-state patients.

4. Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

For years, the US healthcare system has been plagued by revolving door syndrome, with preventable hospital readmissions continuing to be a major burden across the country.  A recent reports claims that one in five Medicare patients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge, and that number jumps to one in three after 90 days. Other studies estimate that upwards of 75% of all hospital readmissions are preventable.

Using the Avery Telehealth 30-day Readmission Avoidance Program, some organizations have turned to telemedicine to combat repeat trips to the hospital and to help patients transition from hospital to home. With a focus on proactive care transition planning, patient centric post discharge care coordination, and remote telehealth monitoring, Avery Telehealth guarantees clients a 30% reduction in readmissions. Avery uses a proprietary care system that takes the hospital discharge orders, executes the orders, and proactively coordinates care with patients’ primary care providers and other community health providers. The outcomes so far are impressive with reductions in AMI, HF, PNA & COPD readmissions by more than 50%.

Telemedicine has been dubbed the future of healthcare, and for good reason. What other benefits have you seen? Let us know in the comment section below.

Catherine Slotnick, Marketing Manager

About Catherine Slotnick

Catherine Slotnick is a passionate healthcare marketer with a deep interest in the latest & greatest in the Health IT space. As Ambra Health's Director of Marketing, Catherine primarily focuses on creating and sharing thought leadership content in the radiology and informatics space. Catherine graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology & Art History. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking and petting dogs that aren't hers.

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