February 2019

Bob Kocher and Bryan Roberts, health care investors and partners at the venture capital firm Venrock, predict “Telemedicine Takes Off,” in their Fortune article, “10 Health Care Predictions for 2019 From a Pair of Venture Gurus” (December 10, 2018).  They note that payers are finally realizing it’s better to “embrace and encourage telemedicine usage as opposed to burying it in their unengaging member portals and clunky mobile apps.”    

The time for telemedicine is now!   Patients, as consumers, are demanding this.  It’s been well established that patients of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are using mobile technology in their lives – from all the conveniences of retail or travel, to simply sharing photos and stories with family and friends.  According to a recent global survey by Cisco, 74 percent of patients prioritize access to health care services over in-person interactions with health care providers, and 70 percent said they were comfortable communicating with providers via text, email, or video, in lieu of an in-office visit.

Yet some clinicians still ask or protest: “My elderly or low income patients won’t use mobile health technology.” Smartphone adoption continues to grow rapidly in the US market:  Pew Research in 2018 reports 77% of Americans own a smartphone vs. just 35% in 2011, and 53% own a mobile tablet device (e.g., iPad or Android). 

In our experience, patients over age 65 using our Trusted Patient Coach mobile solution on their smartphones or mobile tablets are just as, if not more compliant than other demographic groups.

Some providers protest, “They can use our electronic medical record (EMR) portal.”  But those are also clunky to use.  Many are web based or supported by clunky mobile apps and are used for episodic tasks such as viewing diagnostic test results, refilling a prescription, or scheduling an appointment.  Sara Heath, in Patient Data Access News, reports that even among patients registering to use EMR portals (and many patients do not), their utilization is only 20-35% of the time. 

Clinical evidence shows that patients who track themselves do a better job of managing their health and have better clinical outcomes – e.g., managing a chronic condition or recovering after surgery.

At Health Helm we focus on Patient Reported Outcomes and self-tracking, providing clinical teams and their patients with a secure, reliable way to track and report meaningful information about their progress on a daily or routine basis . Clinicians know that when communications with patients are better, they can identify complications or problems earlier and then intervene to address them earlier. 

Kocher and Roberts note that even medicare is adding codes to reimburse telemedicine. Other insurers are, also – recognizing that meaningful, sustained connection using telehealth results in better outcomes at lower costs, with a better patient experience.  Bottom line:  Kocher and Roberts, “Expect telemedicine usage to more than double in 2019, while making substantive inroads beyond flu and cold into areas such as chronic disease management.” 

Sources:


https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20150723.049490/full/

https://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1148539

Heath, Sara, “Patient Access to Health Data, Patient Portal use Increases.” Patient Data Access News, Patient Engagement HIT, October 12, 2017.

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