Telehealth, in its most basic form, has been around for many years. In more rudimentary iterations, patients simply called in to the office and spoke to their provider on the phone. More recently, though, telehealth has become virtually synonymous with video-based consultations, and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice has seen huge increases in popularity. In addition to allowing patients to receive basic consultations and follow-up care, this shift has encouraged significant innovation, expanding just what types of remote care we thought were possible.
Build It Yourself
When healthcare providers realized they would need to reach more of their patients remotely, many didn’t have an infrastructure for providing these service – but most simply chose an out of the box solution and got started. One Ohio-based mental health clinic, however, already had a telehealth system, but they decided this wasn’t good enough. Instead, the group used their internal IT expertise to develop a telehealth platform with a shared EHR system, while also building out their team of national telehealth providers.
Could a healthcare provider actually compete with IT companies in the telehealth sector? Lighthouse made it clear this was possible if the provider had the right skills and defined its goals clearly. Because the system was built with provider feedback, it included key emergency planning elements, flagged potential issues with telehealth-related insurance coverage, and generally streamlined the sorts of issues that only users can speak to, and which are often overlooked.
Emphasizing Employee Wellness
One central feature of telehealth is its ability to go anywhere. In fact, that’s kind of the point – telehealth reaches patients at home or on their phones when conventional office visits may not be an option. One place many providers and patients may not have expected to find telehealth care, however, is on job sites, yet recently they’ve arrived. Work-Fit, in partnership with HealthRoster, provides access to a virtual injury clinic, no matter where work takes your team.
In addition to onsite injury triage, one of the advantages of this kind of targeted telehealth is that it’s scalable and, in the case of this program, includes options for employee wellness programs. It can also reduce onsite injuries and help workers feel confident that whatever happens, they have access to appropriate guidance, referrals, and emergency support.
Driving Down Costs
Though there are some questions about whether telehealth should be a cost reduction tools, there are some ways in which this is undeniably the case, regardless of intentions. For example, using onsite telehealth to triage workers reduces workers compensation costs, and can streamline communication with insurance providers when a worker does need to file a claim. And while many telehealth appointments are patients’ first contacts, which can be more expensive, programs like the one run by Lighthouse make such a difference in continuity of care and patient compliance, that those patients have far lower emergency care costs than similar patients without access to telehealth.
Ensuring ongoing access and insurance coverage for telehealth beyond the COVID-19 pandemic remains a pressing issue and the tool’s future remains uncertain. With sufficient advocacy by providers and patients alike, however, those most impacted should be able to push for its continued use and coverage.