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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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:

 

 

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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/

fitness tracker on arm

Get Moving this May for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

It’s that time of year again – it’s time to #MoveInMay!

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of physical activity and asking communities, health professionals, and families to work together to create opportunities for everyone to get more of it.

Consider these stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1:

  • About 1 in 5 (21%) adults meet the current physical activity guidelines.
  • Less than 3 in 10 high school students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Physical activity can improve health. People who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.
  • Inactive adults have a higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

Click on the link in the first stat above to learn more about the amount and type of activity the CDC recommends for your optimum health benefits.

While many health coverage options provide a wealth of insurance benefits to help you maintain your health, some plans may also provide additional programs and features that pique your interest:

Access to digital fitness tools

We know that consistent physical activity is a core principle of good health. With tools to help you track your fitness journey, you can integrate personalized health and fitness guidance, including tips on nutrition and self-assessments, into your workout routines. These tools can be included in short-term medical or health benefit insurance coverage.

24/7/365 access to board-certified doctors

Increasing physical activity can have a significant impact on your general health, but you may still suffer from common illnesses, allergies, or infections from time to time. Short-term medical and health benefit insurance coverage can include benefits that allow you to connect with doctors in mere minutes via mobile and video to address health concerns quickly and conveniently.

Patient advocacy service

As you continue to increase your physical activity and fitness levels and make the most of your health coverage, you may need assistance navigating the world of healthcare. As is found with many traditional health insurance plans, short-term medical and health benefit insurance coverage can also include access to a patient advocacy service that can help you schedule appointments, find quality doctors and facilities, lower out-of-pocket costs, and make informed decisions about your healthcare.

Note:  Keep in mind that while short-term and health benefit insurance coverage do provide these non-health benefits, neither one is intended to be a replacement nor an alternative to ACA or other major medical plans. These types of coverage do not provide the minimum essential health benefits that are required and will not help to avoid the fee for not carrying health insurance. They may have restrictions, limitations, and exclusions that impact your coverage.

What are your physical fitness goals? How do you work with your personal healthcare community to make sure you meet them?

 

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.

 

 

Source: “Facts About Physical Activity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm

 

 

 

crisp dollar bill in front of white brick wall

Understanding Your Out of Pocket Expenses 101

There’s no doubt that the world of health insurance is challenging. Whether you’re researching new coverage or trying to understand your current coverage, you may feel overwhelmed with the laundry list of options, features, and expenses. It’s likely that you depend on your agent’s guidance and expertise to help you select the coverage that fits your health realities and your lifestyle.

It’s a good idea to have an agent you can trust, but it’s also a good idea to have an understanding of out of pocket expenses before choosing an agent. This will help you understand how a policy will impact your wallet and help you identify which questions to ask your agent before making a final decision.

Let’s take a look at some of these expenses and consider how those they relate to two popular coverage options: short-term medical and health benefit insurance plans.

Deductible

This refers to the amount you pay for yourself before your insurance carrier pays benefits.

If you’re concerned about the cost of deductibles when facing common illnesses such as a cold, an ear infection, pink eye, or strep throat, you may be interested in coverage that includes a telemedicine as a feature.

Telemedicine meets you where you are by allowing you to connect with doctors via phone, video, smartphone, or computer and reducing travel time, anxiety, and time away from family and responsibilities. This feature is available with many short-term medical and health benefit insurance plans as well as traditional healthcare coverage plans.

Copay

This refers to the amount you pay to your providers at the time of service. The amount may vary depending on the type of service you receive and typically does not count toward your deductible.

Affordability is undoubtedly one of your primary concerns when choosing healthcare coverage. Many short-term medical plans offer low out of pocket copays for doctor’s office visits and wellness care. However, the benefits may be more restricted as well since these plans do not need to meet the 10 essential health benefits. They also do not cover preexisting conditions.

If you need another type of coverage and/or if you are considering supplementing your major medical coverage, you may benefit from health benefit insurance, as this type of policy may be cost effective and provides cash benefits to pay for a variety of expenses, including copays. Keep in mind that there may be limitations and/or restrictions, so be sure to fully review the circumstances under which payment can be received.

Coinsurance

This refers to the amount you pay to your provider for services rendered after you pay your deductible and after your carrier covers its portion. This amount is a form of cost sharing and is in addition to the copay that is paid at the time of the visit.

Short-term medical plans offer a variety of coinsurance options, including a 100%/0% option. This can allow you to circumvent a coinsurance payment and would task your carrier with paying 100% of the fees. Keep in mind that short term insurance plans do not cover preexisting conditions and are not required to cover 10 essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services. Check any plan details carefully to understand what is covered.

Health benefit insurance plans do not offer coinsurance options, as they provide fixed cash benefits for specific covered expenses.

Note: It is important to keep in mind, that while short-term and health benefit insurance coverage can provide valuable benefits benefits, neither one is intended to be a replacement nor an alternative to ACA or other major medical plans. These types of coverage do not provide the minimum essential health benefits that are required and will not help to avoid the fee for not carrying health insurance.

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.

doctor holding a phone and charting

Telemedicine Rouses Patient Satisfaction, Positions Consumer Value at the Forefront

As healthcare’s unsustainable costs continue to pose challenges1, it’s easy to understand the importance of finding ways to not only cut your costs but also enhance value. Digital health services such as telemedicine are packaging value, convenience, and competitive pricing so well that they are becoming “part of [consumers] normal process in terms of getting healthcare”2.

Let’s look at what telemedicine offers.

Today’s technological advancements in health and medicine have transformed the way health professionals are able to help consumers like yourself all over the globe. With the help of phone, video, and wireless capabilities, you have the advantage of 24/7/365 access to highly qualified doctors to discuss health concerns you have for yourself or for your loved ones.

This digital health service can be a powerful tool3:

  • Approximately more than 70% of urgent illness conditions can be taken care of with the help of telemedicine such as pharyngitis, sinusitis and upper respiratory illnesses.
  • It eliminates any chances of transmitting infectious diseases from a patient to the health care professional.
  • It allows health professionals to cater to the needs of the patients from any place at any given time.

Let’s look at the benefits of telemedicine.

Lower costs: A recent study found that use of telemedicine can reduce your out-of-pocket costs as well as costs for the hospital system4.

Increased patient satisfaction: Hospitals are keenly aware how patient satisfaction is tied to federal reimbursement benchmarks that assess the quality of the care they provide. In a recent study, 98% of respondents who received care via telemedicine noted they would be interested in similar visits in the future and 99% would recommend telemedicine to others4.

Increased access: Telemedicine isn’t the new innovation on the block; it’s been providing access to healthcare to remotely-located patients for over 40 years5. The National Telehealth Policy Resource Center reports that it increases access6 to remotely located patients who need clinical services as well as remotely located hospitals, allowing them to provide emergency and intensive care services.

Let’s look at the future of telemedicine.

A quick search of recent headlines on telemedicine proves that the service is only just beginning to see its full potential. From diagnosing widespread flu2 to coordinating the ability to perform telestenting via robotic technologyto expanding access of health services to patients in rural areas8, the power of telemedicine is set to continue to revolutionize how and where healthcare meets you when you are in need of care.

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: “Editorial: Rising Healthcare Costs a Cancer, Not a Tapeworm.” Merrill Goozner. ModernHealthcare.comhttp://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180131/NEWS/180139978

2: “In-Depth: Surging Flu in a Proving Ground for Digital Health, Telemedicine.” Dave Muoio. MobiHealthNews.comhttp://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/depth-surging-flu-proving-ground-digital-health-telemedicine

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

4: “Telemedicine Can Lower Costs for Health Systems by $24 a Patient, Study Finds.” Jeff Lagasse. HealthcareFinance.comhttp://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/telemedicine-can-lower-costs-health-systems-24-patient-study-finds

5: “Telemedicine poised for exponential growth.” Robert Ryan. BizJournals.com http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2016/09/27/telemedicine-poised-for-exponential-growth.html

6: California Telehealth Resource Center. “Why are Telemedicine and Telehealth so Important in Our Healthcare System?” http://www.caltrc.org/telehealth/why-are-telemedicine-and-telehealth-so-important-in-our-healthcare-system/

7: “Mayo Clinic to Explore the Use of Telemedicine for Stent Surgeries.” Etic Wicklund. mHealthIntelligence.com https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/mayo-clinic-to-explore-the-use-of-telemedicine-for-stent-surgeries

8: “Health IT Infrastructure Supports Successful Telemedicine Programs.” Elizabeth O’Dowd. HITInfrastructure.comhttps://hitinfrastructure.com/news/health-it-infrastructure-supports-successful-telemedicine-programs