The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in two worlds- one before and one after. The world before the pandemic had the means but not the gumption to roll out tech-based systems in industrial applications as much as desired. Then came the rules of nationwide lockdowns and social distancing norms.
Pandemic-induced acceptance of telehealth
Attending schools and work to keep up with doctor appointments, everything turned to virtual meetings with the hitherto known faces. For the first time in history, the entire world was doing more daily routine work online than it was offline.
Likewise, telehealth services gained acceptance and patients were able to keep up with appointments, despite the scare of a spreading virus. There are numerous advantages including the true cost of telehealth that aims at bringing down the rising healthcare expenditure to a manageable figure in the long run.
Let us examine how telehealth aims at reducing the costs of care and make it more affordable for everyone:
- Capital expenditure
The Capex required to develop a reliable telehealth app is a one-time cost. In the books of accounts, it will be capitalized for a few years and does not lower the margins in any manner. Every enterprise needs to invest an amount in the form of CAPEX funds, to scale their operations or make existing workflow more efficient. The long-term benefits of such investments are more fruitful than the actual funds.
2. Staff workload decreases
In recent surveys, it has been assessed that through telehealth and RPM programs, hospitals have reduced the workload of healthcare staff by nearly sixty percent. Hospitals are no longer overrun with an unmanageable number of visits from patients.
Video-conferencing in place of in-person consultations reduces the space required to seat in extra patient overflow. It is an accepted modality for both patients and the healthcare provider like a nurse practitioner or the doctor.
The waiting time has reduced and patients can consult their physician from the comfort of their homes and offices without explicitly stepping out for an appointment.
3. Reduced repeat admissions
When patients are monitored consistently, they are taking into account their health data and actively participating in their treatment plan. They don’t just wait for their healthcare provider to take action but proactively consult them to take advice.
Through health and disease management education, healthcare providers equip them with basic care that needs to be taken, to maintain health, especially with patients who are at risk of chronic diseases.
When patient engagement increases, their care outcome, and personal experience improves. There are fewer episodes when an actively monitored patient using an RPM device needs to be admitted to a hospital.
With the benefits that have a long-lasting impact on a country or community’s healthcare expenditure and public health costs, the basic capital costs that a telehealth system costs can be justified over the period and capitalized accordingly.
Some of the common costs associated with developing a telehealth system are:
- Telehealth platform license
Every healthcare facility that wants to offer an enterprise version of the telehealth platform can either partner with an equitable vendor working in the niche area or get an exclusive customized platform designed that is unique to the organization. Depending on the scope and needs one can take a subscription service or buy a customized version that is scalable as per the entity’s requirements.
- Integration of services
A telehealth platform should integrate different software for virtual meeting rooms and remote sensory equipment like RPMs into its portal. The data should be accessible for both the healthcare provider and the patient’s login credentials on a real-time basis for accurate results.
Communication channels that are popularly used like Zoom and Google Meet should be integrated into the telehealth portal. It pays to have both web portal and app-based solution for a multi-channel presence and easy access for patients
Telehealth services are relatively new. Hence training of both the enablers and end-users is necessary. Both staff and patients have to be equally trained in handling the equipment for fair and efficient results.
The cost of setting up telehealth services is a fraction of the long-term benefits that it will yield both in terms of monetary aspect and patient care outcomes in the future. Healthcare must spruce up its system by establishing a telehealth service system.