Home > Improving Healthcare > Hospitals Reaping Financial Benefits of Telehealth – HealthLeaders Media

Hospitals Reaping Financial Benefits of Telehealth – HealthLeaders Media

Telemedicine, or telehealth, is the practice of patient caregiving through virtual office visits and virtual rounding. It encompasses the use of various information technologies and clinical applications that capture medically significant data, diagnoses, and consults. Numerous technologies are used in telehealth ranging from standard telephone connections, video conferencing, robotics, healthcare kiosks, PC webcams, iPads, and smartphones.

The passing of the years has softened resistance by patients to using this approach. Patients are now willing to forego an in-person visit with the doctor in order to get the care they need swiftly, without having to travel, and in some instances at a lower cost. Moreover, the reimbursement environment is changing. 

“Telemedicine can lower healthcare costs by reducing avoidable hospital visits and providing regular access to care in remote parts of the state, and it’s more convenient for patients,” says Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth CEO Paula Guy. The nonprofit telehealth provider works with more than 350 partners and 175 specialists and other healthcare providers and has handled some 40,000 patient encounters as of 2011.

Before GPT was started in 2005, the Georgia southeastern public health district realized it had a problem: Children with special needs in rural areas were having difficulty getting access to specialty care. It was decided that telehealth could address the care deficit but the state didn’t want to wait for providers to establish telehealth programs. At the time, Georgia payers weren’t reimbursing for telehealth so providers lacked the incentive to shell out the capital for the technology-driven systems needed. Instead, the public health district secured two federal grants.

We were able to bring all the players together into one coordinated telehealth network,” says Guy.

GPT operates a Web-based system that allows doctors and nurses to schedule visits, and it provides marketing, education, and training on telehealth; plus the system permits providers to electronically share medical records and other data.  The undertaking has been so successful that GPT is working to duplicate the program in Alabama, Florida, and other states, she says.

Once it was established, Guy explains, the statewide telehealth network helped young and old alike. In 2010, for instance, in rural Nashville, Ga., 44 children arrived at the emergency department with asthma-related illnesses. So, as of 2011, school-based telemedicine clinics were added to area schools and last year only one child landed in the hospital ED, she explains.

Children with chronic conditions may not get the specialty care needed, but through these clinics they can be routinely checked by specialists—ensuring better continuity of care while also helping parents avoid work absences.

GPT has also placed telehealth into nursing homes.

See on www.healthleadersmedia.com

For an aggregation of other articles on improving healthcare, go to my internet magazine Scoop.it! Changing Health for the Better.

Categories: Improving Healthcare
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