South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday September 25, 2018
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July 2018 - Volume 15 - Issue 1

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A New Era in Healthcare: Innovating With Telehealth

When it comes to innovation in the healthcare industry, there have traditionally been two schools of thought. On the medical side, we’re early adapters, embracing new drugs, treatments, and equipment in the quest to serve our patient’s needs. On the business side, however, change has been slow. We’ve invested so much in hospitals and care facilities that the focus has always been on getting patients through the doors and onto our turf.

But, just like many brick and mortar retail locations have learned, the world has changed. Consumer habits have evolved and there is now a demand for a different shopping experience, one that uses technology to deliver convenience. That world is often found online.
 
Which brings us back to the healthcare model. While it’s understood that complex surgeries need to be performed in a highly-specialized environment, the same consumers that prefer to shop from home now have an expectation that medical expertise in non-emergency situations will be available on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Nearly 70% of people surveyed in 2015 were willing to consult with a doctor over a video link. Our charge as medical and business professionals is to create new processes whose outcomes deliver better results for audiences of importance.
 
Not Just a Fad
At Memorial Healthcare System, we’ve embraced change in a variety of ways, not the least of which is telehealth, the delivery of healthcare using technology. In the most basic of examples, communication is now more digital, electronic medical records are available via app, and appointments can be scheduled on websites. But it’s much more than that. We’re now remotely monitoring cardiac and neuro patients, using FaceTime to evaluate stroke cases before they reach the emergency room, and offering virtual consults in a number of practice areas. “MemorialDocNow” (available through a free app or at www.mhs.net/memorialdocnow) allows a patient to see a physician at any time for minor, non-emergency conditions that include flu-like symptoms, rashes, and coughs, to name just a few. Additionally, programs are currently being developed for programs specific to behavioral health services, disease-based caregiver connections, post-hospital follow up, and virtual rounds for physicians.
 
What Does It All Mean?
Telehealth delivers convenience, clinical accessibility, and empowers patients to play a more active role in their healthcare, all of which leads to improved outcomes and less costly treatments. Physicians, meanwhile, utilize telehealth as a means to better manage a patient population at risk, extend the continuity of care, and control overall expenses by reducing high-cost emergency room visits, imaging, and hospital stays.
 
What’s Next?
Reimbursement has long been considered the biggest obstacle to hospitals and healthcare systems building comprehensive telehealth programs. While many states are beginning to expand payments for telehealth, others are placing limitations on this type of service. The State of Florida has largely stayed silent, although Florida Medicaid has taken significant steps to recognize the value of telehealth and has implemented strategies to begin solving the reimbursement issue.
 
Memorial’s patient and family-centered model of care and desire to be the most innovative healthcare system in Florida compels it to evaluate telehealth programs that help patients avoid costs while still delivering clinical quality. There is no doubt the future of mobility will further transform the industry. The larger question is will others embrace technological and social change or continue down the one-way street that some of the big-box retail giants of the past chose as their path?

Bill Manzie is Administrative Director of Telehealth Strategy for the Memorial Healthcare System and a member of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Telehealth Advisory Council. He can be reached at (954) 276-1425 or wmanzie@mhs.net.

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