Telehealth Utilization by Patients on the Rise

Stanford Children’s Health in Palo Alto, CA has grown their telehealth program exponentially over the last three years. Their goal is to be more patient-centered, making healthcare more convenient and accessible. From just 192 visits in 2017 to 1,500 already in the first few months of 2019, this practice has learned the value of providing telehealth in modern medicine.

This is typically the exception to the rule. Even in large metropolitan areas, some providers are hesitant to up-end their traditional standard of care. The danger in not adopting telehealth, particularly practices that have a large patient base under 50 and pediatrics, is that patients will go to where healthcare is convenient for them. Between urgent health clinics, retail clinics and free-standing emergency departments, there are many ways patients with difficult schedules can be seen on their own terms. The danger in that is that studies are only just starting on the efficacy of some of these models and patients could be receiving a reduced standard of care.

Telehealth can cover some of the more basic health needs patients may make an appointment with their GP. The top five health issues of patients using telehealth are skin-related symptoms, upper respiratory symptoms, fever as primary concern, GI-related systems and Hospital or ED follow ups.

While studies are still in progress, early indicators for success appear to be reducing costs by lowering hospitalization. A 2018 peer-reviewed analysis published in Telemedicine and e-Health Journal “tracked 1,000 patient visits from October 2015 to June 2017” and “found that when surveyed, 67% of parents who used the health system’s telemedicine services reported they otherwise would have visited an emergency department, urgent-care center or retail health clinic had telehealth not been available.”

Mental health practitioners have a golden opportunity to help patients, particularly those in remote areas. However, mental health practitioners have been slow to adopt telehealth as a regular part of their practice. Only 12 states have 12% or more telemental health visit between 2014 and 2016, with a larger concentration in the northwest. Large states like Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming take advantage more so than eastern states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Based on rural populations and access to mental health providers, these regions of increased activity and slow-to-adopt regions make sense. By volume, there are more providers in the northeastern states than northwest.

We’d love to hear from you, especially those in mental health and primary care. Have you considered adopting telehealth in your practice? Are you already doing it? What has been your successes and challenges? Comment below!


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