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Tele-health: It Works…

…and all it took was a Pandemic for us to realize it!

Remember when the Doctor made house calls? Me either, but I saw it in a movie once or twice. For most of us “going to” the doctor’s office has been the norm throughout our lives when we’ve been ill. We’ve known about the technological alternative, of course. Tele-health services have been around for many years. In fact, the Affordable Care Act mandated tele-health as a benefit for all group health plans (individual and employer-based plans with under 100 employees). Even still, utilization of this built-in and highly encouraged service has been slow, at best, throughout most of the U.S.

Most Tele-health services have been handled by large companies like WebMD, MDLive, Teledoc, etc., who enlist a panel of doctors scattered around the country. While most users report good experiences with tele-health and would use it again, it’s been difficult to generate the kind of numbers insurance carriers and employers had hoped for. Then, a little thing called the “COVID-19 Pandemic“ occurred…

Suddenly, the last place people want, need, or can be is in a doctor’s office, urgent care facility, or emergency room. However, people still require the medical attention necessary for on-going and newly acquired COVID and non-COVID conditions. And, in case you weren’t aware of the U.S.A.’s health care delivery structure, doctor’s offices are businesses. In order for them to survive as a business they need to see patients, bill insurances, and generate revenue.

Medical practices throughout the world have been forced to make the sudden switch to tele-health service delivery. Most, if not all, providers you and your family currently use are now offering, and in some cases requiring, a video-call for a virtual appointment. And, they are being compensated from the insurance carriers, or you, if you haven’t met your deductible, as if you had actually been in their office.

Ironically, the same medical providers that struggled to initiate this form of medical service are now embracing it. They’ve had the ability to offer this service in the past, but now that it’s the safest way to treat patients it’s become their norm.

So, now the question becomes “what is tele-health going to look like in the future?” For many businesses this crisis is creating new work environments and, in many cases, new service delivery efficiencies. We expect it will be no different for medical practices around the country. Employer sponsored health plans could benefit from the reduced cost tele-health services can lead to. Therefore, you can expect a push from the financing side of the equation, as well.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 social and economic stoppage medical practices will continue to use tele-health to achieve service delivery and business efficiencies. There are apps for your phone to check your vital signs, secure video conferencing capabilities for consultation and electronic medical record sharing services. Stay tuned to learn how all of our lives change; hopefully, for the better.

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