Telemedicine is one of the few avenues that leads to better health care as well as lower costs, both elements of the Triple Aim initiative. It could actually be among the “cornerstone solutions to the problem,” says Yulun Wang, Ph.D., president of the American Telemedicine Association Board of Directors.
Telemedicine has extensive and diverse applications. If this is tapped aggressively, it could benefit physician practices, hospitals and health systems in many different ways. “In some shape or form, telemedicine can be used in any aspect of healthcare delivery at a lower cost while driving up quality simultaneously,” Wang says.
When it comes to chronic diseases, for instance, telemedicine helps in managing a patient’s condition under a pay-for-value model that in turn enables the health care industry to generate savings. Specifically, the approach integrates telemedicine with preventive care. This way, providers can use the latest technologies to connect with and check on chronic patients who are at home. Through such online consultations, they can gather and track data on the patients in order to “head off negative trend lines,” says Wang.
But before telemedicine can actually be used for the Center of Connected Health Policy’s six-month Triple Aim initiative, valid evidence has to be established together with improved financing and reimbursement.
Researchers from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, however, found a limited number of digital health technologies that could satisfy completely all the elements of Triple Aim. There was also no apparent link between investment and evidence of the value of the different technologies. Plus, in some categories like telemedicine solutions, no example of an evidence-based offering could be presented. Based on an analysis by Towers Watson, telemedicine on the whole could eventually save American employers up to $6 billion each year.