by Mike Greiwe, MD
It’s a bold statement to say that the future of orthopedics lies in mobile health, but data show an irrevocable link between technology and the future state of medical practice in the United States. That’s not just because our culture is obsessed with the digital universe, it’s because your patients will soon be demanding the convenience of telemedicine and mobile health applications.
According to an article in HealthPayer Intelligence published on May 16, 2018, “Telehealth is a promising opportunity to increase member engagement because a greater number of individuals are open to the use of telehealth services. Telehealth and remote care provide an exceptional customer experience opportunity for payers. Consumers want telehealth as a convenient way to receive checkups, preventive care and non-critical services without the need for travel and wait times.”
A study cited by mHealth Intelligence suggests patients are willing, the technology is ready, but clinical providers and insurance payers have lagged behind data that show patients are ready for the convenience found in mobile health applications. Of the 400 consumers surveyed, 77% said they would be more likely to pick a doctor who offered telemedicine applications over one that hadn’t yet adopted the technology. Data showed the reasons behind the interest in mobile health virtual visits included that:
• Patients want the option of skipping a time-consuming trip to the doctor for a simple recheck or non-urgent visit; and
• Short wait times and the convenience of receiving a virtual house call are attractive to patients.
When combined with data showing that telehealth reduces costs in the medical practice, it seems clear there are new options in health care that may improve the bottom line.
Keep the customer satisfied — Mobile health in the orthopedic practice
According to a Beckers Hospital CFO Report, “This direct link between patient satisfaction and revenue will likely become stronger because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of linking 90% of Medicare payments to quality or value by 2018.”
Although many orthopedic providers continue to express their concern that patients will not be willing to evolve from traditional visits, the most recent research does not hold up this assumption. A 2017 Advisory Board study of patients’ attitudes toward the virtual visits shows 77% would be willing to at least try the model.
The Accenture study highlighted what patients say are the primary benefits of telehealth:
• faster diagnosis and treatment;
• reduced costs;
• providing and receiving high-quality care;
• more flexibility in scheduling; and
• time savings for physicians and doctors.
A 2018 article in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests the current model of traditional in-patient visits will eventually be flipped to the visit of last resort over mobile health or telehealth options. The authors suggested, “Face-to-face interactions will certainly always have a central role in health care, and many patients prefer to see their physician in person. However, a system focused on high-quality non-visit care would work better for many others — and quite possibly for physicians as well.”
Some of the systems leading the way are Kaiser Permanente, with 52% of their 100 million-plus patient encounters each year conducted as virtual visits. However, a large health system has the budget to establish telehealth applications while retraining clinical providers and their patients on best practices for using the service. How can a small medical practice find the time and energy to reinvent itself under a mobile health framework?
The answer may lie in the individual practice seeking innovative ways to obtain a competitive advantage. An article by a solo orthopedist in AAOS Now recounted his experience in using telehealth applications to treat postoperative patients. His decision to use the technology was tied to improved patient experience, lower overheads and higher quality of care.
Is it time for your practice to discuss the opportunities to offer mobile health as an option for your patients? OrthoLive has developed a cloud-based affordable telehealth model designed specifically for the orthopedic practitioner. Contact us to find out more.
Mike Greiwe, MD, is the CEO at OrthoLive, an orthopedic telecommunications company, and a shoulder and elbow surgeon at OrthoCincy.