By Connected Technology Solutions

January 30, 2019

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A 21st Century Solution to Healthcare

Although telehealth and telemedicine have been around in some form for almost a century, advances in smartphone technology, network support and consumer acceptance have caused the field to explode within the last five years. Factors driving this growth, which include addressing the increased healthcare usage of an aging population and overcoming the challenge of serving underfunded and rural markets efficiently, will no doubt continue this trend into the foreseeable future.

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But how do healthcare organizations fill the service gap between in-office visits and in-home telehealth consultations? The challenge with telehealth as it commonly exists is that it is difficult to complete detailed examinations quickly, efficiently, and accessible without compromising quality of care – a challenge that is further complicated by the rising cost of healthcare and evolving service models.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, it’s easy to follow trends. Advances in technology, support, and patient familiarity can help overcome that challenge, allowing healthcare organizations to expand into retail or corporate spaces, giving patients access to services anytime, anywhere, and at a fraction of the cost. In this future, connected wellness health suites and kiosks take center stage.

Secure, private health suites and kiosks can offer all of the diagnostic features and clinical benefits of an in-office visit. Combining high-definition video conferencing and software-guided diagnostic equipment, the health suite platform captures all necessary data and documentation and feeds it into a back-end clinical system. This reduces overall expenses and maximizes resource utilization while delivering high-quality healthcare well beyond the four walls of a traditional medical office. Healthcare professionals conduct real-time, live visits with their patients in an environment that is safe, quick, clean (thanks to advanced disinfecting technologies), and convenient, all while being cost-effective for the patient and reimbursable for the medical professional.

Healthcare at a Crossroads

Healthcare delivery as we know it is outdated and unsustainable. Challenges arising from meeting the healthcare needs of a large, aging population with increased healthcare needs mean a physician shortage is looming on the horizon, increasing wait times for appointments and underserving rural populations. As healthcare organizations move from a fee-for-service to a value-based care model, the need for increased efficiency is even more apparent.

While the physician shortage was expected given the large aging population, it wasn’t until recently that researchers learned just how dire the situation is. Specific to primary care, there could be a shortage of between 7,300 and 43,100 physicians by 2030, while non-primary care specialties are estimated to have a greater shortfall of 33,500 physicians to upwards of 61,800.3

All of this just exacerbates an increase in wait times for appointments. Currently, one can expect to wait, on average, 24 days to see your primary care doctor – and even longer to see a specialist.4 Patients who are waiting longer to be seen are more likely to cancel the appointment or seek expensive emergency services for resolution. Increased wait time also increases patient dissatisfaction, adversely affecting referral rates and clinic revenue.

Fewer available physicians also hit rural areas hard. Approximately 60 million people live in rural America, meaning 20 percent of the population is spread out over 65 percent of the area. Because resources aren’t as concentrated as they are in metropolitan areas, rural populations, which tend to be older, poorer, sicker, and uninsured, are being served by half the number of hospitals.5 As competition increases for highly-skilled physicians, these rural care centers cannot compete with their urban counterparts. In 2005 there were 93 Primary Care Providers per 100,000 people in metropolitan areas, compared to 55 PCPs per 100,000 in rural areas.
6 This difference is even more marked among specialists, who are lured to metropolitan areas with higher pay, better quality of life, and student loan repayment incentives.

Remotely Improving Care

The Virtual Care Center, operated by the Mercy Health System, provides remote support for emergency rooms, ICUs, and other healthcare services from Oklahoma to North Carolina. Of the 38 hospitals it supports, many are smaller, rural, and do not have an onsite physician at all times. After adopting this telehealth service, participating ICUs saw a 35 percent drop in average length of stay and 30 percent fewer fatalities.12

A Time for Telemedicine

Telemedicine offers an opportunity to use technology to address the very real challenge of accessibility facing our healthcare system, while smart, intuitive platforms can do so without compromising the quality of delivery.

While telemedicine can be conducted via mobile phone or traditional landline, it doesn’t allow clinicians to provide additional diagnosis and examination. Utilizing a kiosk-style enhanced diagnostics suite equipped with diagnostic peripherals, bi-directional video conferencing, and powerful backend data integrations, patients can use diagnostic equipment, review collected data with a clinician, and can update their medical records with consultation results in one seamless experience.

Building on the self-service model, costs are limited to a clinician’s session time only. Clinicians can go about their daily duties remotely while supporting walk-in patients, or on-call clinicians can be designated to support the health suite. Service can be enhanced and functionality extended by offering technical services like phlebotomy while keeping costs in line with lab technician rates.

Adding to the cost-effectiveness and accessibility of this kiosk model, these self-contained, secure suites can be placed in retail spaces, businesses, or municipal buildings to extend clinician reach and increase service range while increasing traffic in the host facility. The traditional cost per square foot for a clinic is approximately $220 7 while retail rental may be as low as $23 per square foot 8. The Wall Street Journal reports that non-emergency telehealth sessions cost around $45 versus $100 at a doctor’s office or even $160 at an urgent care clinic. 9

Efficiency, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness are only part of the patient satisfaction equation.

While physicians want happy patients who share their positive experiences with others, patients want their healthcare needs met as quickly as possible, without readmissions or multiple visits. Studies by the American Heart Association on remote monitoring showed that participants studied were 23 percent less likely to be admitted to the hospital, readmissions within 30 days were 44 percent lower, and 90-day readmissions were 38 percent lower than patients who did not participate in remote monitoring.12

Reimagining Healthcare with Health Suites & Kiosks

The shift from fee-for-service to value-based care has helped telemedicine become a cost-effective means to improve follow-up care while reducing in-office wait times and specialist bottlenecks. In fact, Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers have each expanded coverage to facilitate reimbursements for telehealth services and have lobbied for its use for chronic care management with the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017.

Whether in response to or as a driver of these changes, the market is responding. A recent American Hospital Association report shows that more than three-quarters of hospitals are currently using or implementing telehealth for consultation and support services. 10 The telehealth footprint is expanding into private practices, where upwards of 20 percent of in-office consultations could be done offsite, and employers, who are seeking to offset rising insurance premiums. 11

So, how do you implement telehealth solutions into your business or practice?

Introducing CTS Connected WellnessTM Health Suites & Kiosks, all-in-one, self-service, self-contained telehealth solution from CTS Healthcare, the leader in patient management hardware and software for healthcare kiosks.

Customizable, intuitive, and secure, the CTS Connected WellnessTM health suites and kiosks, featuring the powerful Suite-TTM software platform, provide a controlled environment for patient engagement in retail, corporate or municipal locations. These self-contained telehealth suites offer patient privacy, anti-microbial disinfection post-visit, and check-in management in an affordable, completely customizable package.

The CTS Suite-T health suites include diagnostic equipment, monitors, cameras, printers, and video conferencing. Patients sit comfortably at the large high-definition monitor and consult with a clinician via videoconferencing. Visual indicators and clinician direction allow patients to use certified medical equipment peripherals for easy and efficient patient diagnosis live and in real-time.

The Suite-T interface is uniquely branded for your organization for a seamless patient experience. The software facilitates communication between patients and clinicians, data exchange between peripherals and systems, and makes managing your remote healthcare suite simple – from suite access and appointment management to instrument prompting and video conferencing, Suite-T even triggers disinfection of the interactive surfaces after each session, and can even interface with your EMR.

About Connected Technology Solutions

Made entirely – and expertly – in the United States, Connected Technology Solutions (CTS) is the leader in branded user touchpoints since 2002. Innovative, interactive, and integrated CTS products include point-of-purchase kiosks, digital signage, interactive displays, and retail fixtures that provide solutions for the healthcare, retail, hospitality, and transportation industries, as well as kiosk workflow management software for healthcare and court systems.

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