4 Things You Should Know About Telemedicine

Telemedicine is an emerging service in healthcare technology positioned to skyrocket in popularity through 2018 and beyond. With a market value climbing from $14.3 billion in 2014 to a projected $36.2 billion by 20201, telemedicine is poised to transform the way millions of American receive healthcare in the not-so-distant future.

So, what is telemedicine?

“The remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology. This includes a wide array of clinical services using internet, wireless, satellite and telephone media,” according to the American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) telemedicine definition2.

“Telehealth” and “telecare” are often used to describe this service, so if you’re wondering “what is telehealth?”, the ATA considers the telehealth definition to be the same as the telemedicine defintion2.

As healthcare costs continue to rise in the U.S.3, tech services like telehealth can save you time and money, especially when it comes to non-emergency medical services. These services are often available on-demand and can range from video consultations with a certified physician to counseling with a licensed psychotherapist via your smartphone, tablet or computer.

In fact, more than 70% of urgent illness conditions—colds, flus and skin infections, for example—can be treated with the help of telemedicine4.

We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to the history, applications and benefits of telemedicine.

Did you know…

 

  1. Demand for telemedicine is growing—fast

 

Looking at the statistics, it’s easy to see why providers and consumers are using telemedicine more and more every year: convenience and cost.

The average consumer in a U.S. city spends 18.4 days between making an appointment and actually visiting their doctor’s office5. The average in-office visit takes 121 minutes—20 of which are spent actually seeing the doctor, while the rest spent traveling to/from the office and sitting in the waiting room5.

In contrast, consumers who opt for video visits spend about five minutes waiting and eight to 10 minutes seeing their doctor according to a case study on Southwest Medical Associates, one of Nevada’s largest multi-specialty medical groups6.

Providers seem to be in favor of telemedicine’s cost-reducing services as well. Over 70% of healthcare providers are currently using telemedicine solutions or services—a drastic rise from 51% in 20147.

Telemedicine can help to reduce costs8 by use of remote analysis services like physician video visits and specialized fields like telepathology (the study of diseases) and teleradiology (the transmission of radiological images like x-rays MRIs and CTs).

Furthermore, telemedicine companies often utilize a pool of healthcare providers across the country that work as one resource for the consumer. This gives consumers, especially ones in rural areas9, the freedom to receive care on their own schedule, opposed to the restrictive business hours of the brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities in their area.

 

  1. The history of telemedicine dates back to the 1920s

 

Oftentimes, it’s amusing to look back at old media predictions of a retro-future with flying cars and robot butlers. Sometimes, they’re not far off. In 1925, Radio News published a speculative cover story by Hugo Gernsback, an American inventor who hypothesized that physicians would soon be able to hear, see, and examine their patients by way of a machine he deemed the Teladactyl with a two-way video screen and other diagnostic features10.

While Gernsback’s machine never made it to production, the seeds of telemedicine had been planted in the minds of doctors and scientists across the nation.

The American scientific community quickly built off Gernsback’s dream, culminating in 1959 when clinicians at the University of Nebraska used a two-way television system to disperse neurological examinations and related information to medical students across campus—widely considered the first medical use of video communication in the U.S.11.

Advances in telemedicine remained constant through the latter half of the century, but public interest was generally limited to residents in rural areas with small medical facilities that relied on telemedicine services like teleradiology to send and receive x-rays to radiology specialists and who could now analyze and advise doctors on the patient’s condition faster than ever before.

 

  1. Future applications of telemedicine could be absolutely game-changing

 

Just as researchers did in the 1920’s, today’s medical science and technology researchers are looking to the future of telemedicine and its’ potential applications.

The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices has gigantic disruptive potential, which could change the way healthcare providers offer their services and receive continuing training throughout their careers.

AR mobile devices and apps have already given consumers the power to self-monitor health data points like heart rate, amount of daily physical activity, and more. Further advancements include contact lenses that provide visual prompts to diabetics when their glucose levels start fluctuating to wearables like the Apple Watch that uses near-field communication to remind users to take their prescription medications when they’re nearby12.

While VR technology is currently used for laparoscopic surgery and colonoscopy training, many hope it will eventually give medical students more opportunities to virtually perform invasive procedures and emergency resuscitations, all before they can do so on real-life patients. A number of U.S. medical school have made big changes to their anatomy curriculum by incorporating VR glasses and displays to allow realistic rotation and manipulation of anatomic models13.

This hope extends to robotic laparoscopic surgery as well, which would allow surgeons to go from monitoring a 2-D video screen before using their hands/tools to viewing live 3-D video, allowing them to perform surgery without ever diverting their gaze from these 3-D consoles14.

 

  1. Your health insurance agent may already offer coverage that comes with telemedicine features

 

As telemedicine continues in popularity, many insurers may cover services or offer reimbursement. The extent of coverage will vary by insurer and state. Talk to your agent about your available options today.

Learn more about the benefits of telemedicine by:

 

 

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

Stay tuned to our next blog post!

Click here to join our Facebook community for more information about your health and your healthcare coverage.

 

Sources

1: “Five Telemedicine Trends Transforming Health Care in 2016.” Nathaniel M. Lacktman. Foley.com. https://www.foley.com/five-telemedicine-trends-transforming-health-care-in-2016/

2: American Telemedicine Association. “About Telemedicine.” AmericanTelemed.org. http://www.americantelemed.org/main/about/about-telemedicine/telemedicine-faqs

3: “U.S. healthcare spending to climb 5.3 percent in 2018: agency.” Yasmeen Abutaleb. Reuters.com. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-spending/u-s-healthcare-spending-to-climb-5-3-percent-in-2018-agency-idUSKCN1FY2ZD

4: “The Importance and Value of Telemedicine.” Karandeep Virdi. ElectronicHealthReporter.comhttp://electronichealthreporter.com/importance-value-telemedicine/

5: “Paying for Health Care with Time.” Jake Miller. Harvard Medical School. https://hms.harvard.edu/news/paying-health-care-time

6: “Case Study: Southwest Medical’s winning strategy for telehealth.” Beth Principi. American Well. https://www.americanwell.com/case-study-southwest-medicals-winning-strategy-for-telehealth/

7: “71% of Healthcare Providers Use Telehealth, Telemedicine Tools.” Thomas Beaton. MHealthIntelligence.com. https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/71-of-healthcare-providers-use-telehealth-telemedicine-tools

8: “5 ways telemedicine is driving down healthcare costs.” Steff Denches. Healthcare IT News. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/5-ways-telemedicine-driving-down-healthcare-costs

9: “Telehealth Use in Rural Healthcare.” Rural Health Information Hub. https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/telehealth

10: “Telemedicine Predicted in 1925.” Matt Novak. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/telemedicine-predicted-in-1925-124140942/

11: “Telognosis.” J. Gershon-Cohen, A.G. Cooley. RSNA.org. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/55.4.582?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed

12: “How augmented reality and virtual reality devices are boosting medicine.” Chris Newmarker. Medical Design and Outsourcing. https://www.medicaldesignandoutsourcing.com/how-ar-vr-devices-boosting-medicine/

13: “Virtual Reality Check.” Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD. Telemed Magazine. http://www.telemedmag.com/article/2016715ub73avh975fjs43o8ixcivxd304uag/

14: “VIRTUAL REALITY AND THE FUTURE OF TELEMEDICINE.” Tim Edlund. Synoptec Blog. https://www.softworksgroup.com/synoptec-blog/virtual-reality-and-the-future-of-telemedicine/

If You’re a College Student or Recent Grad, These Healthcare Solutions Got You Covered

Summer has settled in across the country, and we’ve all got something to celebrate in this warm weather. As a college student or recent grad, you certainly have your fair share of reasons and opportunities to celebrate as well. But according to a recent poll, 72% of those in your shoes – or in your caps and gowns as the case may be – are facing a challenge: finding affordable health insurance.

With 40% of your fellow college students and recent grads mostly concerned about the cost of premiums and 20% concerned about high out-of-pocket costs, you will undoubtedly have questions about your options this summer. You may be coming off coverage through your university or your parents’ health plan or you may be waiting for coverage sponsored by your new employers to begin. You may also be priced out of traditional major medical coverage as well. Short-term medical plans may help you address your healthcare needs.

STM plans can include benefits and features such as:

  • Flexibility in length of coverage  in cost depending on benefits selected
  • Variety of deductible and coinsurance options
  • Benefits that are paid in a similar manner to traditional major medical plans
  • Wellness options
  • Little to no waiting periods
  • Next day coverage for some carriers
  • Relatively inexpensive premiums due to lower and more restricted benefits
  • Low-cost doctor and specialist copays depending on the plan selected
  • Open network of physicians, specialists, and hospital depending on the plan selected

Your family may also have concerns about your coverage options as well. When you research your options, talk with them about what STM plans can offer. This level of coverage is available at any time in the year and you can cancel it at any time as well. It can also offer access to providers of your choice, including providers you visited through their parents’ health coverage. If you’re looking to change providers, STM plans can provide you the opportunity to file your own claim and submit for reimbursement if needed.

However, STM coverage does not provide the minimum essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will not help you avoid the penalty for not carrying health insurance. At this time, STM plans have a maximum duration of 3 months at which point you must re-apply to continue coverage. There may be limits on how many times you can re-apply as well. In addition, pre-existing conditions are not covered. Benefits vary by plan and state and may not include those that are listed above. Before making a purchasing decision, review any plan details carefully.

If you find that you aren’t eligible for STM coverage and that you’re priced out of ACA coverage, you may find health benefit insurance plans (commonly known as limited benefit medical plans) to fit your lifestyle and healthcare needs.

Health benefit insurance plans provide a basic insurance coverage that is capped at specific amounts for services provided due to accidental injuries, sickness, inpatient surgical care, outpatient care, and even pre-existing conditions. Plans vary as to the specific, fixed amounts provided and which specific medical services they will provide benefits for, but often times, this level of coverage may provide little to no waiting periods and benefits for critical illness and/or accidental death.

HBI coverage can also offer benefits and features such as:

  • Guaranteed issue coverage
  • Next day coverage or little to no waiting periods for accidental injuries or sickness
  • 12 month waiting period for pre-existing conditions
  • Ability to supplement existing coverage
  • Access to non-insurance benefits such as a prescription savings program, 24/7/365 video and phone access to quality physicians, and a patient advocacy service

But remember: like STM plans, HBI plans do not count as minimum essential coverage required by the Affordable Care Act and is not suitable to serve as your only medical coverage. Although the premiums may be lower than a major medical plan, the benefits are also lower and more restricted.

Benefits offered vary by plan and state. Not available in all states. Make sure to review any plan details carefully prior to making a purchasing decision.

 

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

Stay tuned to our next blog post!

Click here to join our Facebook community for more information about your health and your healthcare coverage.

Get Your Kids in the Game for National Youth Sports Week

There is a long list of health benefits that come with participating in sports, but it provides children with social benefits as well. During the week of July 16-22, thousands of those invested in youth sports will show their support for these benefits as they raise awareness for their programs. From coaches to athletic directors to youth athletes to parents, those who promote youth sports and healthy lifestyles are gearing up to support this year’s theme: Physical activity, Living healthy, Access, Youth development, and Safety – or P.L.A.Y.S.

Let’s take a look at a few important stats on today’s youth and their activity levels:

  • 20% of children between 6 and 12 are mostly sedentary.
  • Today’s kids spend over 27 hours a week in front of screens.
  • Less than 3 in 10 high school students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • In 2007, only 30% of 9th-12th graders said they attended physical education classes every day.
  • In 1969, 41% of students walked or biked to school. By 2001, that number decreased to 13%.

According to the CDC, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This includes specific recommendations for aerobic activities, muscle-strengthening activities, and bone-strengthening activities. But if they’re sitting in front of screens a majority of their week and not getting consistent physical education classes in schools, how can they meet these recommendations?

Enter youth sports.

Only 39% of youth ages 9-13 say that participate in organized physical activity. Campaigns such as National Youth Sports Week seek to see that number skyrocket by reaching out to the community, the media, and elected officials to raise awareness of the benefits at stake.

Here’s why:

  • 88% of kids involved in sports reported experiencing an improvement in physical health.
  • 73% of kids involved in sports say it enhanced their mental health as well.
  • 56% of parents of kids involved in sports say it gives their children skills to help in future schooling.
  • 55% of parents of kids involved in sports say it give their children skills to help in their future career.
  • Participating in sports is credited with such health benefits as improving endurance and supporting weight control and with such social benefits as building character, boosting self-esteem, developing teamwork skills, and teaching discipline.

After helping them get involved in the sport (or sports) of their choice, it’s important to boost kids’ participation. Work with your community, your leagues, and/or your schools to ensure a wide range of sports are offered, emphasis is placed on fun more so than winning, the chance of injury is reduced as much as possible, and participation is encourage among young girls.

Here’s why these strategies matter:

  • Offering a wide variety of sports: This increases the likelihood your child can find one or more sport that interests her and that provides her the opportunity to showcase her best skills.
  • Emphasizing fun over winning: Your child may feel burdened by the sport of her choice if the emphasis is always placed on winning. By shifting that emphasis to the fun aspects, they are likely to enjoy their investment in the game much more while being respected for their efforts and improving their skills.
  • Reducing the risk of injury: Over 2 million people under the age of 19 are treated for sports injuries each year. Reducing that risk helps to keep kids safe and helps more parents feel comfortable encouraging their kids to participate.
  • Encouraging participation among girls: Before Title IX, 1 in 27 girls played sports. Now that number is 2 in 5. By improving not only your support of their participation but also your support of their sports in schools and in community leagues, you can help to ensure the next generation of girls has a healthy involvement in and access to a wide range of sports.

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

Stay tuned to our next blog post!

Click here to join our Facebook community for more information about your health and your healthcare coverage.

Let’s Fact-Check These 4 Common Short-Term Medical Misconceptions

Misconceptions about short-term medical plans are common. While STM plans can provide quality benefits that meet a variety of budget needs, they fall outside of traditional healthcare coverage options, and you may have questions about how they work.

Healthcare costs continue to rise. Political debates and legislative updates continue to impact your wallet and how you are able to access care for your family. There is no better time to ensure you have a thorough understanding of your health coverage options, including short-term medical plans.

Short-term medical plans, also known as temporary health insurance, are medical plans that have a limited duration. They are designed to bridge gaps in health care coverage during a period of transition, like graduating from college, or starting a new job.

Here are 4 common misconceptions about short-term medical plans:

Myth #1: Only a limited number of doctors accept short-term medical plans.

Many providers and facilities across the nation accept short-term medical plans. You may have the option to see an in-network provider and your claim will be handled by the doctor’s office. Or you may choose to see an out-of-network provider, pay for the service up front, and then submit a claim to your claims administrator yourself so that you’re reimbursed. Keep in mind using an out-of-network provider could mean a much higher out-of-pocket cost.

Talk to your agent and your insurance carrier to learn more about what your specific plan allows and how services are covered. This includes knowing how and where to access your member ID card, what number to call with questions about benefits, what number to call with questions about claims, and where to access an up-to-date provider directory and pertinent details of your coverage.

Myth #2: Only those who are young and in good health are good candidates for short-term medical coverage.  

This level of coverage may fit your needs if you are:

  • Transitioning between jobs
  • Waiting for employer insurance to begin
  • Graduating from college
  • Rolling off parents’ coverage
  • Waiting for Medicare coverage to become effective
  • Seeking healthcare coverage options outside of Open Enrollment

While benefits may be limited, this level of coverage may suit your needs and help you tackle healthcare realities.

Disclaimer: STM coverage is not intended to be a replacement or alternative to ACA or other major medical plans nor does it provide the minimum essential health benefits that are required and it won’t help to avoid the fee for not carrying health insurance. They can have exclusions and limitations, which may not make them a valid option for some clients.

Myth #3: Short-term medical coverage is expensive and doesn’t provide quality coverage.

Premiums for STM plans are often lower than major medical premiums. This is due to the fact that these plans have more limitations and/or restricted benefits. That said, STM plans can provide a range of valuable insurance benefits for individuals and families such as:

  • Preventive care and routine doctor visits
  • Emergency care*
  • Inpatient and outpatient surgery and hospital care*

Similar to major medical insurance, you may also enjoy added non-insurance benefits such as:

  • Mobile access to board-certified doctors who can treat many common illnesses
  • Patient advocacy service that can help navigate the world of healthcare and negotiate medical bills
  • Prescription savings membership that can lower out-of-pocket costs
  • Digital fitness tool to help track your wellness journey

However, the coverage provided by short-term medical plans does not include:

  • Immediate benefits for hospital stays, surgery or anesthesia for conditions you already have
  • Benefits for prescription drugs

STM plans do not have coverage requirements, so plans vary in what is covered. Review any plan details carefully before purchasing. Additionally, STM does not cover pre-existing conditions. Applicants are subject to underwriting approval based on answers to medical questions. Coverage is limited to a time period of no longer than three months.

*Typically not covered for for pre-existing conditions

Myth #4: Short-term medical plans can help those enrolled avoid the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalty.

While a short-term medical plan can be an affordable and quality option if you are looking to help bridge the gap in your health coverage, it does not qualify as minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That means that you are likely to face tax penalties. If you are without minimum essential coverage for less than 3 months within a year and if you belong to certain groups such as non-citizens, you may be exempt from the penalty.

 

With our leading edge tools and technologies, we’re upgrading how you experience your choice of coverage.

Stay tuned to our next blog post!

Click here to join our Facebook community for more information about your health and your healthcare coverage.