The Debate Over Annual Physicals: How Can Telehealth Help?

Do routine checkups still have a place in today’s healthcare industry? An article from USA Today posed that question this week, as the topic has become increasingly prevalent as providers look to cut costs and streamline treatments in our new outcomes-based economy.

To get to the heart of the issue, USA Today bulleted out the “pros” and “cons” of routine check-ups based on their conversations with doctors and patients.

Pros:

  • They help build relationships between doctors and patients.
  • They are chances to fit in proven screening and prevention practices.
  • They give all patients a reason to show up.

Cons:

  • Studies have found no evidence they reduce deaths or illnesses.
  • They sometimes harm patients.
  • They waste time.
  • They waste money.

For those familiar with the telehealth space and the numerous telemedicine programs being used across the country, it immediately becomes apparent how many of the above items can be resolved through the use of remote communications. While in-person visits are undoubtedly necessary for many patients, it is interesting to speculate on the number of routine screenings and check-ups that could be accomplished from the patient’s home without the hassle of scheduling and time spent in waiting rooms.

Building off of this line of thinking, it might be wise to ask: Does a 20 year old need to have a regular check-in, or are these better suited for a 68 year old patient with various co-morbid systems?

Perhaps the most telling part of the article was this statement:

“Here’s something those on both sides agree upon: Relationships between doctors and patients are important and should be nurtured. Some doctors suggest that could be accomplished with less frequent visits or through other means — including increased digital communication.”

For an example of how telehealth can do just this, i.e. foster relationships, cut costs, and improve care, look no further than Medicare’s Chronic Care Management (CCM) program, which reimburses doctors for providing 20 minute monthly telehealth calls to patients with multiple chronic conditions.

Similar to an in-person check-up, the medical professional answers questions, provides medication instructions, and most importantly, nurtures a relationship with patient and ensures that any possible concerns are addressed. The best part? All of this is delivered via a concise, specific call tailored to the patient’s specific needs.

While licensure issues and state requirements continue to be barriers preventing the widespread use of telehealth, this report clearly shows just how much potential this technology has for saving time and fostering meaningful relationships.

The next step will be for CMS to unveil programs that reimburse providers for these services across all patient demographics and regions, following CCM’s example of an improved care continuum that focuses on what matters the most: The Patient.

About the Author

Patrick Stevenson is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Wellbox, the all-inclusive solution for tracking and billing for Chronic Care Management and Annual Wellness Visits, as well as offering in-demand Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring services.

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