It all started as an outlandish idea in 1924 where doctors would use robotic fingers and a projected video feed to examine patients from afar. By 2020, telehealth is projected to be a $34 billion industry and is expanding far beyond its primary usage of delivering care to patients in remote areas. Telehealth today is a combination of point of care video collaboration systems, remote scope exam cameras and Bluetooth enabled stethoscopes, all supported by telehealth workflow software – making virtual care synonymous with in-person care. By supplementing in-person consultations with virtual visits skilled nursing facilities can dramatically improve patient outcomes while lowering the cost of care.
But what about the patients? How do they really feel about using telehealth technologies?
Nearly 75% of patients are comfortable communicating with a doctor via technology in place of an in-person visit, and 76% prioritize access to care over their need for an in-person interaction.1 In a study of 8,000 patients who used telehealth services, patients found no difference between the virtual appointment and an in-person office visit.2 It’s only logical that as we use smartphones and wearables to track exercise and monitor vitals, we’ll expect and want more convenient and on-demand access to healthcare providers.
Doctors and healthcare facilities participating in telehealth programs are seeing financial benefits. In a University of California, Davis study, telehealth consultations decreased the number of patients being transferred by 31 percent, resulting in savings on expensive ambulance transfers. What about reimbursements? While navigating around telehealth policies and reimbursements can be tricky, the bottom line on Medicare and telemedicine is that Medicare is reimbursing for more telehealth services now and CMS is adding more eligible CPT codes every year. That’s good news for everyone!
Let’s not forget the role that telehealth plays in optimizing senior care in place. By combining collaboration tools and peripheral devices at the point of care facilities can offer increased levels of provider interaction for high-risk patients. Plus, administrators experience greater control of their facility’s capacity by requiring fewer transfers and patient readmissions, which equals less empty beds, increases in referrals and a higher quality of life and health status for the
We can only imagine what telemedicine will look like in 2020. But with ideas like using Google Glass to automatically transcribe medical records during a patient exam, you can bet that it will look dramatically different than today. And who knows, someday soon we may even be using robotic fingers from afar to facilitate virtual hands-on visits.
1 NTT Data. (2014). Trends in Telehealth [White paper]. Retrieved June 2, 2016,
2 C2 Solutions: News and Press Releases. (2015). [White paper]. Retrieved June 2, 2016,