How are physicians and hospitals benefitting from using telehealth?
Interprofessional consultations aren’t just beneficial for physicians, but also for healthcare organizations. Consultations between nurse practitioners, primary care physicians and specialists are growing rapidly as the utilization of telehealth becomes more common. These consultations and discussions with specialists located outside of the hospital lead to fewer patient transfers, reduced readmissions and costs savings. Here are just a few ways physicians are using telehealth for interprofessional consultations and how hospitals are benefiting.
Being in two places at once.
Through telehealth, it’s possible for physicians to serve patients at multiple locations throughout the day. One practice in Fort Collins, Colorado, Miramont Family Medicine, has four offices across the area with staff and patients in each location. CEO John Bender has implemented telehealth to better connect with patients and staff across all his locations without physically being there. Bender often has a nurse practitioner or physician assistant see a patient while he uses telehealth to assist the decision making. The benefit? It greatly improves productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction.
Collaborating to succeed.
Physicians are starting to utilize the benefits of physician to physician consultations via telehealth programs. One major program is the Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW), a not-for-profit plan created to provide care to Medicare, Medicaid and underserved populations. Instead of sending a patient off to a specialist for a separate appointment with added costs, the primary care physicians in this program are collaborating on their own with specialists. Since patients are receiving high-quality care from the organization, patient outcomes improve and specialist consultations are no longer skipped.
Bringing urban care to rural communities.
With a severe lack of specialists across rural American communities, telehealth programs have stepped in to help connect urban physicians to rural physicians. A pediatrics program launched in 2016 by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to help doctors in remote Navajo communities connect with specialists in the Philadelphia area via telehealth. Physicians at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia use this platform to help Indian Health Service physicians with difficult cases and strengthen rural physicians’ skills. This program hopes to improve clinical outcomes for hundreds of thousands of children in communities from Alaska to Arizona.
Closing the specialty referral gap.
A San Diego-based health system saw great success in 2016 with a telemedicine program that highlighted physician and specialist collaboration to reduce second appointments for patients. The program has the functionality that allows a primary care physician to communicate with specialists via an asynchronous exchange. Therefore, more primary care physicians can give specialty care to their patients. These consultations between primary care physicians and specialists mean more accurate diagnoses. Primary care physicians are able to connect with specialists to quickly assess problems that need urgent follow-up, such as strokes and melanoma.
Connecting nurse practitioners to physicians.
At Stanford Children’s Health, a telehealth program allows patients and their families to access pediatric specialty care through a nurse practitioner. The physician can see and hear exactly what the NP does during the visit or follow-up appointment and can assist as necessary. NPs can see more patients, fill in last-minute cancellations and accommodate urgent requests while patients and specialists won’t have to travel long distances for appointments. Organizations will save when using an NP rather than bringing on a specialist full-time.
With many physicians experiencing burnout symptoms, it’s important to understand how they can better use their tools and surroundings to serve patients. As an organization, it’s important to utilize this cost-saving tool to create more efficiency and productivity. Ultimately, when physicians use telehealth there’s a direct effect on the organization: fewer patient transfers and more money saved. How can we help your physicians with interprofessional consultations via telehealth?