Telehealth Can Improve Patient Care, Help Practices Grow

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Delivering care at a distance may enable practices to expand their current geographic boundaries and enhance patient satisfaction.
Delivering care at a distance may enable practices to expand their current geographic boundaries and enhance patient satisfaction.
The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 Large Urology Group Practice Association meeting in Chicago, November 1-3. Renal and Urology News' staff will be reporting on presentations dealing with various practice management and clinical topics aimed at community-based urologists. Check back for the latest news from LUGPA 2018.

CHICAGO—Despite some obstacles, urologists have numerous opportunities to leverage telehealth to expand their practice, Christian Milaster, Digital Health Transformation Advisor for Ingenium Healthcare Advisors, told attendees at the 2018 annual meeting of the Large Urology Group Practice Association.

Telehealth—delivering care at a distance—has the potential to improve patient and provider satisfaction, enhance health outcomes, and lower the cost of care, Milaster says. It can help practices expand beyond current geographic boundaries, give patients what they expect, and provide broader access to a physician's expertise. It can foster continuity of care and care coordination while giving patients timelier and easier access to providers.

According to Milaster, the modern health care consumer expects quality care at a fair price and convenience, including rapid access to service.

 “There are a lot of interactions between patients and clinicians that do not have to occur in person,” Milaster says.

Telehealth can involve interactive patient care via live video, online chat (using Skype, for example), or telephone, remote patient monitoring, which may consist of continuous or periodic transmission of vital signs, and “store and forward,” which refers to a technique by which images, video, and audio are first captured locally and sent later to their final destination for evaluation. Telehealth also encompasses education and patient portals, which provides patients with access to their health information and self-service options.

A major impediment to having a successful telehealth programs is payment. Medicare reimbursement is especially problematic. “It's spotty, it's limited,” he says. Almost 20 years, concerned about overutilization of telehealth, Congress put a lot of barriers in place, which is now severely hampering its growth, he says. Some Medicaid programs and private insurers do reimburse providers for telehealth.

"Telehealth is here stay. It is the future. The best time to get started in telehealth was 5 years ago, and the second best time is today," Milaster says.

He added: "There are numerous sustainable business models for integrating telehealth into urologists' practices and they should get started now so they can gain experience for the time when reimbursement becomes the norm versus the exception."

Visit Renal and Urology News' conference section for continuous coverage from LUGPA 2018.

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