Melinda is a 45-year old hospital patient newly discharged after recovering from inguinal hernia surgery. After spending a week at home, she needs to make a trip to the hospital for a follow-up examination with a nurse, which requires her to take time off of work. In another two weeks, she needs to visit for a second follow-up examination, cutting into her recovery and work time.
In its current state, patient recovery relies heavily on in-person clinical follow-ups. But technology is beginning to transform traditional routine office visits—especially for elective low-risk procedures—into a type of care that can be performed entirely through telehealth. For example, if Melinda had the ability to meet with her nurse via video conferencing for postoperative care, she could dial in from the comfort of her home without having to arrange for travel or taking multiple hours out of her day—a barrier that we’ll explain later.
Telehealth is opening up new avenues for care that provide benefits for both patients and providers alike. Want to see how your organization can deliver better outcomes with telehealth? We’re offering healthcare providers RingCentral Office free of charge.
Here are five advantages of incorporating telehealth into care coordination and delivery efforts.
1. Teleconferencing increases patient access to follow-up care
Timely and coordinated follow-up clinical visits are critical to ensuring patients stick to their treatment and rehabilitation plans; however, healthcare providers everywhere have always faced a consistent challenge: appointment no-shows. A study conducted by BMC Health Services Research shows that an average of 18.8% of appointments end up being no-shows. And this doesn’t include patients who choose to forego making follow-up appointments altogether.
The reasons behind no-shows and refusing follow-ups can stem from multiple factors ranging from scheduling conflicts to anticipatory fear, but teleconferencing helps eliminate one barrier: distance. Telehealth delivers follow-up care straight into patients’ homes, minimizing their need to travel to the hospital or care facility, and saving them time. Similarly, care teams that travel to patients’ homes can also minimize their time behind the wheel through video conferencing.
Travel can be especially difficult for locations with a shortage of healthcare providers—most acute in rural areas. Telehealth can play a key role in care coordination for people who live in these areas and allow patients to seek care from specialists outside of their geographical limits.
2. Video conferencing helps avoid preventable ED visits
It’s a pattern we see too commonly as healthcare providers: people delay seeking medical care until it’s too late, and they are sent directly to the ED. In fact, a study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that at least one-third of people avoid going to the doctor. This problem compounds as patients who avoid the first follow-up visit are 70% more likely to not return within 18 months, significantly increasing the chances of hospital readmission.
Video conferencing makes it much easier for patients to attend their follow-up appointments, which means providers have a better opportunity to administer routine monitoring. Clinicians can monitor patients’ vitals and medication adherence, alert primary care providers of high-risk changes, and give providers a chance to intervene and make adjustments to treatments as necessary.
3. Virtual meetings drive patient satisfaction
Most patients prefer to keep follow-up visits to a minimum. Follow-up visits not only take time out of the day and disrupt normal responsibilities, but many patients also need to arrange for transportation and accommodations for postoperative treatments. One visit can end up costing patients significant time and money.
Patients report being highly satisfied with receiving care from the convenience of their own homes. Studies show that 62.6% of patients report seeing no difference in the quality of care they received using virtual meetings vs. in-patient visits, and 82.3% would recommend telehealth follow-up care to friends and family. This is even higher in other fields of treatment such as transplant, which sees a 90% patient satisfaction rate with providers using telehealth for postoperative care.
4. Video calls make room for more patients
Clinics, care facilities, and hospitals around the country are seeing low availability and high wait times for patients, which can often stretch for weeks at a time. A lot of time is spent on administration—getting patients prepared, moving patients into the correct rooms, and filling out paperwork. What if we could minimize those tasks?
Video calls give primary care providers the ability to see patients quicker and reduce downtime. Clinicians can reduce the time seeing patients—especially uncomplicated ones—and make time for more complex ones, or simply see more patients in a day. At a time where medical appointments are reaching critical mass, providers can leverage video to alleviate the excessive wait times.
5. Telehealth drives better patient outcomes
Patients willing to engage and participate in their own recoveries are far more likely to fully recover and minimize future visits—and care coordination teams can play a vital role in helping them achieve that. Care coordinators can leverage telehealth to provide care continuity and prevent issues from becoming acute, which can be incredibly effective for patients with chronic conditions or mental health issues. By playing an active, ever-present role in patient recovery, healthcare providers drive better patient outcomes and higher satisfaction from every party involved.
Learn more about how telehealth is transforming healthcare in our post, 5 things to learn from the early adopters of telehealth: behavioral health providers.
Originally published Jun 08, 2020, updated Apr 23, 2021