42AMGA.ORG JUNE 2019
Solutions exist that do not require the patient
to download a special app, remember a series
of user names and passwords, or search for
obscure links buried on a website. Practices
can enhance their main phone number to send
and receive text-based messages and images.
A simple HIPAA-consent opt-in gives patients
the ability to make appointments, ask a quick
question, send a clarifying photo, or conveniently
interact with a care team the same as they do
with family and friends.
A streamlined telehealth communications
platform can reduce the number of incoming
phone calls, making practice operations efficient
and putting enhanced communications methods
within normal staff workflows.
The communications future between practices
and patients is here.
Easy to Access
Patients of all ages are using technology, especially mobile devices, to accomplish everyday
tasks. When given the choice, 84% of patients
would rather text with their healthcare provider
than talk to them on the phone. 2
Communicating with providers via text keeps all information
organized and creates a ready-made resource
for information about appointments, pre- and
post-op instructions, and other routine information involving their care.
Telehealth platforms allow a practice to
engage with patients wherever they are:
at home, at work, and even on vacation.
Store-and-forward (asynchronous) technologies
make remote patient monitoring (RPM) easy for
the patient to share information for evaluation
by healthcare teams. By comparison, while most
electronic health records include a patient portal, accessing the portal requires patients to use
a login and password for every communication,
which is both cumbersome and a major obstacle
to meaningful engagement.
Even the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
Services (CMS) is recognizing changing patient
attitudes and the need for providers to be
time-efficient with their care delivery. Until
recently, regulations have limited providers, but
with the release of the CMS 2019 Physician Fee
Schedule, telehealth is taking its rightful place
among other care delivery methods. 3
Patient expectations have moved beyond
basic appointment reminders—patients want
providers to deliver the information they need in
a convenient method, which often includes their
Telehealth versus Traditional
Seeing is believing, especially when a patient
has questions or concerns about an emergent
medical issue. Patients sending images securely
to their providers significantly increases efficiency. Telehealth allows a patient with a
question about a wound, sore, or other visual
issue to snap a photo and send it along for
review by clinical staff who can quickly calm
fears or take other appropriate measures.
We’re all too aware of the traditional process. An initial phone call likely results in either
voicemail or leaving a message with a call center,
then waiting for a callback from the nurse or
physician. That callback may mean a wait of
24 hours or longer, depending on the policies of
the practice. When the return call finally comes,
the patient recounts the issue, then probably
is transferred to the front office to make an
appointment. Of course, the patient may not be
available, so the provider leaves a message, and
the above process repeats.
The telehealth scenario cuts through the chaos
of an overburdened medical practice, improves
the patient experience, and frees care team
members to prioritize acute needs. The traditional scenario is an all-too-common occurrence
that leaves the patient frustrated and the practice overwhelmed.
Reduced Phone Call Volume
One six-location pediatrics practice recently reported a 33% decrease in
inbound patient calls within the first six months of adopting a telehealth
messaging platform, stating that patients preferred the ease and convenience of having real conversations via text messaging.
What Impact Do You Think Telehealth
Will Make in Your Organization?
Source: MGMA Stat
Based on a Nov. 6, 2018 poll
of 1,261 healthcare leaders