Have you ever suffered form a cold or the flu and wished you could just phone your physician, describe your symptoms and have a prescription ordered through you local pharmacy? Sounds too good to be true, right? In today’s healthcare environment, physicians have no way to bill for the time they spend talking to you on the phone. They only have the means to bill you for office visits or procedures. So instead of a quick call, you are required to schedule an office visit, and take the time to travel to the doctor’s office in order to be diagnosed and get the medication that will send you back on the path to good health.
This is all starting to change thanks to a Dallas-based company called TelaDoc Medical Services (teladoc.com). With TelaDoc, most visits occur in less than 30 minutes from the time of request, patients now have a guaranteed encounter in under three hours, with a flat rate fee per visit and 24/7 access to quality medical care. Covering physicians have the patient’s medical record as well as the means to update it electronically. Most importantly, the physician is now paid for the encounter.
This concept of delivering medical care recently got a boost from a Former Acting Surgeon General of the U.S A. A newly released white paper entitled “Telephone Connectivity Supports Medical Home Model and Removes Barriers to Care,” authored by Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., articulates the value of telehealth – namely the utilization of the telephone to provide physician or consumer-directed cross coverage 24/7 – as an emerging and effective application in tackling specific issues related to episodic care as well as chronic care management for diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiac disease.
A press release issued by TelaDoc noted that Moritsugu examined the wide-ranging impact and value of telehealth in helping the medical home model to address coordination of care for individuals with episodic as well as chronic diseases by looking at:
Access to Healthcare: Telehealth, as practiced by TelaDoc clinicians, utilizes the telephone to provide physician or consumer-directed cross coverage 24/7. This model tears down seemingly formidable barriers including financial constraints; lack of transportation; work/family responsibilities; physical limitations; psychological problems and personal stress; stigma of certain diseases; and social and cultural challenges.
Impact of Telehealth on Chronic Disease: Individuals with chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, or cardiac disease are the most likely to experience adverse health consequences as a result of disruptions in access to medical care. Telehealth bridges the gaps in care, facilitating communications between patients and the medical home PCP when the latter is not immediately available.
Telehealth Promotes Patient-Centered Healthcare: Telehealth’s direct communication model supports the transition from provider-centric to patient-centric care. It helps providers by empowering them to monitor and manage patient care from a distance, without regard to location, and minimizes the need for patient travel when not necessary for the interaction.
Health Plan Innovation’s Take: Sometimes a simple change in the system such as coming up with a way for physicians to be compensated for a telephone consultation can have wide ranging impact of the overall system. Look for TelaDoc and similar services to become a standard benefit in many health plans in the near future.