Is Telehealth the Answer to Dissatisfaction with Rising Healthcare Costs?

January 25, 2013By: VocoVision

Is Telehealth the Answer to Dissatisfaction with Rising Healthcare Costs?

A November Gallup poll reveals that people who have commercial health insurance are becoming less satisfied with rising cost and lowered coverage. In 2001, 68% of people who were privately insured by their employers were satisfied by coverage and out-of-pocket costs, but by November 2012, that number had significantly decreased -by about 11 percentage points, to 57%.

At the same time, recipients of government programs—Medicare and Medicaid—reported an almost identical increase in satisfaction, from 68% in 2001 to 76% in 2012.

Researchers concluded that falling satisfaction rates are due to increased costs as people are expected to pick up more of the costs of premiums and other expenses passed on by employers and insurers. Insurance companies looking to maximize profits by cutting benefits may also factor in.

So what’s the answer?

With the traditional healthcare system losing ground, sufferers are finding satisfaction with new distribution methods for common ailments. Holistic and alternative treatments are popular, and many people are turning to low-cost walk in clinics for routine care, which often turns out to be less expensive than seeing the doctor, even with comprehensive insurance. Some patients find a nasty after-the-fact surprise in the mail when their insurance company refuses to pay for preventative care and the doctor charges a small fortune for a flu or pneumonia shot that would cost just a few dollars at a drug store clinic.

The rising cost of health care has medical professionals squeezed between insurance company mandates and struggling to stay afloat while providing optimal patient care, and alternatives like telehealth are sounding more and more like cost-effective and accessible solutions. Telehealth has already proven effective and invaluable in many fields, including speech-language pathology, and an increasing number of medical fields and facilities are implementing distance-based solutions.

In addition to the cost-saving options for the medical professional offered by telehealth, it’s easier on the patient. Cutting down office visits for chronically ill patients or patients in need of regular therapy is a win-win for both doctor and patient.

Getting the insurance companies on board for new methods and medical solutions is always a challenge, but this is a fight telehealth is guaranteed to win. The lure of lower overhead costs is powerful in a field drowning in astronomical drug therapies and cost overruns. It’s only a matter of time before telehealth options are available for routine medical needs and testing. The public already embraces the idea, with medical advice sites enjoying huge traffic as people try to understand their own illnesses and be proactive about their health care.

A.I. or Not

In 2001, Steven Spielberg provided us a somewhat grim view of telehealth gone wrong, with automated doctors in an automated clinic and nary a human in sight. The clinic in A.I. Artificial Intelligence wasn’t an appealing idea, but the concept might serve as a precursor to the future of medicine – only with a more human touch, of course. Telehealth may not be the only answer to an expensive world full of hurt and poor health, but it’s a practical and economical first step. Will you be prepared to integrate telehealth and technology into your practice?

 

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