Award-winning Tech Expert Highlights Value of Telemedicine
November 08, 2018
Across the nation, telemedicine (also known as telehealth, connected care, and virtual care) is helping patients gain access to physicians through connected devices, helping to address provider and appointment shortages, and provide convenient care at a lower cost. The platform does not represent a new type of care, but rather a different delivery method that is being embraced by highly regarded providers, businesses, insurers, and health care innovators.
In a recent article for Forbes, award-winning tech expert and entrepreneurial scientist Shourjya Sanyal tells us that between the years 2000 and 2050, the global population of people aged 60 years or older is expected to increase from 605 million to 2 billion and they will be the main beneficiaries of telehealth. Top companies are currently building doctor video chat platforms to provide the elderly with remote monitoring services such as medication adherence, which helps elderly patients and their caregivers manage and track medication usage.
Sanyal tells us that, “one of the first use cases of telehealth was to provide health care in remote locations.” He explains that more than 65 million Americans are more than 60 minutes away from the closest acute-care hospital. In rural areas of the state, telemedicine is helping hospitals continue to meet the changing needs of the communities they serve. During a time when so many rural hospitals are facing financial hardships and looking for ways to better meet community and population health and wellness needs, telehealth services present real opportunities to improve the quality of health in these regions.
Sanyal’s analysis has implications for the Keystone state, which is among the oldest and most-rural states in the union. Pennsylvanians looking to age in place benefit from a variety of telemedicine services, including medication adherence, which helps elderly patients and their caregivers manage and track medication usage. AARP PA is among the many advocates who view telehealth as a critical health care option for older patients and their caregivers.
As Pennsylvania’s health care community continues to address the ever-growing need for behavioral and mental health care in the commonwealth, telemedicine is playing a key role in linking patients with providers. Telepsychiatry involves a range of services including psychiatric evaluations, numerous therapies, patient education, and medication management. Sanyal speaks to telepsychiatry advantages including reduced stigma, reduced time off work, and better access to mental health specialty care. The American Psychiatric Association points to a robust evidence base that shows telepsychiatry leads to improved outcomes and higher patient satisfaction ratings. Additionally, schools are seeing increasing value in providing tele-behavioral health services in-house, helping to keep students in school. These are compelling reasons to expand telepsychiatry services in the Commonwealth, where we have a great need for this care and not enough specialists.
Health care provider groups across the state—including HAP, AARP PA, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association—advocated for Senate Bill 780, legislation that would have helped many Pennsylvanians who are isolated, elderly, live in rural areas, lack transportation, or deal with chronic conditions. Despite unanimous support from the state Senate, the House Professional Licensure Committee, and powerful expert testimony about the quality and value of telemedicine, bill was met with stiff opposition from the insurance community.
Sanyal underscores in his article that telemedicine will face key challenges, but shares his hope that it could change the direction of health care throughout the world. In Pennsylvania, HAP and the hospital community will continue to champion the benefits of telemedicine and work with policymakers to find ways to increase access to—and insurance coverage for—this important service.
For more information about HAP’s telemedicine advocacy, contact Tim Ohrum, HAP’s vice president, grassroots advocacy, or Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.