- Voice-only telehealth grew significantly in late 2021, and patients reported much higher levels of satisfaction with this appointment format.
- Telehealth allows doctors to check in more regularly with patients and monitor basic health data remotely, reducing the number and cost of in-person visits.
- Technology and innovation have advanced opportunities for reliable telehealth, including collaborative care among geographically-dispersed practitioners.
- Payers can support the growth of video-based telehealth by educating members and providers about the health and cost advantages gained from its use.
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Voice-only telehealth has been on the rise since late 2021, in part because of increased use in chronic care management. Additionally, Medicare now accepts telehealth visits for coverage, making it more financially viable for practitioners to manage routine appointments this way.
The growth of phone telehealth impacts payers as well. It has a lower cost structure than regular in-person visits, so payers generally support its use.
How higher levels of voice-only telehealth visits affect payers
The following is a look at the ways in which health payers are affected by higher levels of voice-only telehealth visits.
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More regular preventative visits
Many patients dealing with chronic health conditions have a difficult time getting to in-person visits on a regular basis. Delayed visits impact a patient’s health and associated stress when struggling with health uncertainty.
Telehealth can fill gaps between in-person visits. More regular check-ins allow doctors to gauge whether a patient is in need of urgent or emergency care. Some patients have machines at home for monitoring and testing. Doctors have access to the data and can communicate with patients on calls about any concerns about the results.
More regular preventative check-ins save payers a lot of money on the more extensive emergency care that would otherwise come into play more often.
Reduced hospital visits
Chronic care patients make up a large percentage of hospital admissions and readmissions. Hospital visits, especially those requiring emergency care, are very expensive for the healthcare system and its payers. Therefore, focusing on preventative care to reduce the amount of urgent and emergency care is a core strategy for minimizing costs.
Often, patients that wind up in the hospital could have avoided the need for admission if they had more regular contact with their physician. This is especially true if physicians monitor health remotely and identify concerning data early. Telecalls allow for fast check-ins with patients when concerns arise.
Impact of technology and equipment
As the equipment and technology used in medicine continue to advance, so do the costs of the healthcare system. Hospitals and clinics must cover these costs in their billing practices, including their negotiations with health insurance carriers.
The investment in a quality, dependable communications system for managing regular telehealth visits pales in comparison to the costs of equipment physicians use during urgent and emergency care visits.
Many medical practices rely on a unified communications system to manage their telehealth appointments. These systems deliver a reliable connection, allow doctors to keep and organize notes during visits, and efficiently provide follow-up communication such as post-care visit summaries. Cloud-based cross-platform systems also allow health teams more efficient methods of collaboration in care management. General practitioners and specialists in different locations can work together to manage patient care.
By supporting the push for more telehealth appointments, payers are indirectly encouraging practitioners to invest in more efficient communications systems that offer long-term cost efficiencies to the health system.
Additional ways voice-only telehealth benefits payers
There are a number of other ways in which telehealth boosts chronic care management and reduces costs for payers and the entire health system, including:
- Test review appointments: Doctors can review the results of diagnostic tests via telehealth, reducing the need for an extra in-person appointment.
- More preventative care education: Healthcare providers sometimes offer access to nutritionists and other wellness management professionals who offer affordable access to these educational resources for chronic patients.
- Wider specialist provider access: Telehealth eliminates geographical obstacles that prevent patients from gaining access to specialists that aren’t near them. Specialists can visit with patients on the phone and then coordinate care with the general practitioner using telecommunications.
- Improved claims processing: As providers upgrade their technology infrastructure with unified communications systems, the transmission of claims and other documents is easier and safer. This simpler, faster transmission process allows for more predictability in planning for payouts and reimbursements for payers.
How payers can promote voice-only telehealth
Payers don’t have to sit on the sideline, hoping that doctors and patients will continue to embrace voice-only telehealth. You can play a key role in encouraging the growth trend to continue.
Some patients don’t even realize that telehealth is an option for them. Promotional campaigns, including mailers and direct mailers, help make people aware that voice-only telehealth is now covered by insurance. More engaging brochures and website information can promote the benefits of chronic care management through more regular check-ins.
Payers can also communicate the value of voice-based telehealth to the entire health system directly with providers.
RingCentral powers voice-only telehealth
Voice-only telehealth is a win-win-win for all key stakeholders in the healthcare system. Patients have access to more regular routine visits, which allow them to discuss concerns with their doctors. Earlier detection of emerging issues can be addressed before they lead to expensive hospital admissions.
A unified communications system provides a reliable, cost-effective, and accurate communications solution for telehealth appointments and other communication processes within the healthcare sector. RingCentral is a leading provider of a comprehensive, cloud-based communications platform that allows for optimized communication, record-keeping, and schedule coordination. It also has advanced security features, which are critical when handling private, sensitive health information and documents.
Originally published May 03, 2022