Saving and Increasing Money through Telemedicine

June 10, 2016

Telemedicine can not only save money for practices, but it can increase revenue as well. Here are ways how.

Last year, there were more than 200 telemedicine bills put before state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That large number shows the direction healthcare is moving. More organizations in this industry are taking a closer look at the benefits of telemedicine and considering a rollout, and legislatures are scrambling to set the rules of engagement and fit this new mode of healthcare practice into existing legal frameworks.

Patients benefit from more flexible healthcare, of course, but it also is a boon for physicians and their medical practices. Besides better serving patients, telemedicine can also help the bottom line of medical practices.

Setting up a practice for telemedicine is not free, but it is cheaper than many people might think. Communications-as-a-Services (CaaS) companies can allow medical practices to integrate secure, reliable videoconferencing and white boarding into new or existing health portals and apps, and there are a host of consultants and professional organizations to help medical practices get started. Moreover, the technology can both increase revenue and cuts costs.

Here are some ways how:

Reducing Missed Appointments

First, telemedicine helps reduce the number of missed appointments, an ongoing concern for just about every medical practice. With the average no-show rate at between 5 percent and 10 percent, according to MGMA Consulting, cutting missed appointments is significant from a revenue perspective.

Telemedicine helps reduce missed appointments by eliminating many of the reasons patients fail to show up on time. Traffic is not a consideration when appointments are conducted over video conference,. There’s no excuse for getting stuck at work, and finding a babysitter is not an issue since patients can be around their children during a telemedicine appointment.

Optimizing Patient Flow

A second way telemedicine improves medical practice revenue is through better patient flow optimization.

When patients are meeting with physicians via video from their homes or workplaces, there’s more room for scheduling patients optimally for a continuous, steady flow. Patient appointments can be better scheduled by being queued up and having the physician call them when ready, similar to the way cable repair men schedule an appointment window and then meet with the customer when possible.

Attracting New Patients

Because talking with a physician by video is much easier than schlepping into a doctor’s office and waiting, patients love telemedicine. Offering telemedicine signals that the medical practice respects the time of patients.

A survey by Software Advice recently found that 75 percent of medical patients were interested in telemedicine appointments, a number that should pique the interest of any physician looking to build their practice.

Keeping Existing Patients

Similarly, telemedicine improves patient retention. Scheduling and meeting with a physician remotely is more convenient than coming in for care when the issue is minor, and it obviously makes eldercare easier. Expanding hours to include on-demand consultations via videoconference also helps patients feel like they always have medical access when they need it.

Expanding hours to meet patient needs is important from a medical practice revenue perspective. Roughly 71 percent of all emergency room visits are unnecessary, according to recent a Truven Health Analytics study. By offering on-demand appointment options even when the office is closed, medical practices can capture these lost appointments instead of having many of them go toward emergency room visits.

Monetize After-Hours Care

The reality is that patient needs don’t stop when a physician goes home for the night. Although many healthcare needs can be steered toward office-hour appointments, there always will be times when physicians must talk with patients in off-hours. With telemedicine, medical practices can better monetize these after-hours interactions instead of leaving them unbilled.

Telemedicine makes it easy for physicians to meet with patients in the evening when at home or even from their smartphone while in transit. These on-demand appointments can be billed like regular appointments, maximizing practice revenue while also keeping patients happy. This is a win-win if physicians thoughtfully schedule how they roll out on-demand telemedicine appointments.

Peter Scott is a journalist and editor who has been covering healthcare, business and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. You can contact him at PeterEditorial@gmail.com. And JT Ripton is a freelance healthcare, technology and business writer out of Tampa. He loves to write to inform, educate and provoke minds. Follow him on twitter @JTRipton