Washington, D.C. — Telehealth was once the topic of futuristic videos. A handsome, charismatic doctor would beam into the living room of some fairly-fit family on a very-expensive-looking big screen and take their vitals with flashes of light, all while conferencing in consults from around the world to diagnose the son’s … hangnail?
Real life telehealth is a little less dramatic and increasingly a lot more common place. Chances are, you already have access. A critical mass of insurance plans and practice programs actively encourage members to interact with their doctors through video, email or text messaging.
A recent study by the Affiliated Workers Association, found that more than 36 million Americans have used telemedicine. For simple consults, the practice makes sense. The American Medical Association says that as many as 70% of doctor office visits are for information or matters that can be handled over the phone.
One of the surprise proving grounds of telehealth has been the Veteran’s Administration. It’s used telehealth to connect with an estimated 460,000 veterans in the past year and is looking to double that number in the coming year with an aggressive campaign that includes new and expanded services.
Their program fundamentally changes the consumer healthcare experience. It pairs apps, home videos visits, even educational iPads for caregivers, with traditional in-office care to create a system that works with – rather than interrupts – the lives of veterans.
What’s more? It works for people and for the bottom line. The VA’s telehealth program has earned a 30 percent reduction in bed days of care, an 80 percent increase in patient satisfaction rates and saved an estimated $1,900 per person annually and consistently since 2005, moving it well beyond the “pilot” stage.
Posted by: Leigh Householder