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telemedicine - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Telemedicine – The Wave Of The Future

As technology becomes more sophisticated, telemedicine may become more common in the healthcare industry.

Remember on “Star Trek” where people could be teleported? Imagine how valuable it would be to teleport a medical specialist when needed.

Thanks to technology, we are not that far off.

Better mobile technologies and electronic health records have caused the healthcare industry to incorporate more telemedicine into medical care. Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, defines telemedicine as “the delivery of any healthcare service or transmission of wellness information using telecommunications technology.” Experts say telemedicine has the potential to transform the way medical care is provided and the way medical education is taught.

“Physicians and patients can now interact and share information through video conferencing, online communications and mobile phones,” says Dr. Tami Romano of HealthNation, a Scottsdale-based company that is leading the way in providing affordable healthcare to 75 groups and businesses through telemedicine services. “The access to electronic medical records allows physicians to be more efficient, to share information more easily and provide remote monitoring, to people living in rural areas. It gives patients access to specialists without leaving their homes, and there is more opportunity for in-depth and expanded care with remote diagnosis and follow-up.”

Dr. Ronald Weinstein, who helped create the Arizona Telemedicine Program in 1995, has built a broadband communications network in Arizona that brings clinical services to hundreds of thousands of patients at 160 sites in 50 Arizona communities, including remote towns on Arizona’s Indian reservations and in its state prisons.

Weinstein says the use of telemedicine in medical training will save lives.

“The third leading cause of death in adults in the United States is medical error,” says Weinstein, who was named “Innovator of the Year” by the University of Arizona in March. “We’re working on a new curriculum to train nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals together.”

Weinstein says that many patient-care deaths stem from failures in communication. In addition to fostering communication among health professionals, using telemedicine as early introduction to medical education will produce citizens capable of making better health decisions. “Health literacy in the general population is critical if we are going to manage our own health,” he says.

In addition to providing a better platform to inform patients and for doctors to communicate, telemedicine is also helping companies’ bottom line in an age of skyrocketing medical costs.

“Employees are able to address healthcare issues for themselves and their families without incurring loss of time from work,” Romano says. “Companies are able to contain costs by structuring health benefits with the combination of a major medical plan and telemedicine services, giving employees coverage for the big things and first line of defense care for wellness,” Romano says. “The cost is less than a PPO and encourages more preventative care.”

While Medicare has been slower to change reimbursement policies to accommodate telemedicine care, private insurers and state Medicaid payers have been more progressive in covering many services, and that’s pushing more doctors and hospitals to provide them.

“The introduction and expansion of telemedicine will continue to enhance the communication between physicians and patients, which will ultimately allow better patient outcomes,” Romano says. “It will also help to contain costs, reduce physician overhead and transition our system from fixing the sick to preventing the sick, which will lead to a healthier population.

5 telemedicine services

  • Specialist referral services typically involves of a specialist assisting a general practitioner in rendering a diagnosis. This may involve a patient “seeing” a specialist over a live, remote consult or the transmission of diagnostic images and/ or video along with patient data to a specialist for viewing later.
  • Patient consultations using telecommunications to provide medical data, which may include audio, still or live images, between a patient and a health professional for use in rendering a diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Remote patient monitoring uses devices to remotely collect and send data to a monitoring station for interpretation.
  • Medical education provides continuing medical education credits for health professionals and special medical education seminars for targeted groups in remote locations.
  • Consumer medical and health information includes the use of the Internet for consumers to obtain specialized health information and online discussion groups to provide peer-to-peer support.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2012

Health Nations Telemedicine

HealthNation Offers Telemedicine Services To Employers

The digital age has redefined our way of living, and HealthNation has found a way so that employee healthcare is redefined, too.

HealthNation, a company based in Arizona, provides telemedicine services to employers and their employees.

As defined by the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is the use of electronic communications to exchange medical information to benefit a patient’s health status. This can range from remote patient monitoring to direct patient consultation.

For HealthNation, this means 24-access to doctors via phone, email or video conference, and electronic medical records. According to its spokesperson, Dr. Tami Romano, it also means avoiding the emergency room and urgent care costs, therefore increasing productivity and reducing healthcare costs.

For employers, this means cost-saving bundles and a healthier workforce.

For an average family of four, the expected savings from HealthNation is about $2,200 if they have an additional PPO health plan — $4,700 if they have a high-deductible plan. Romano estimates that there are even more savings when the employee is uninsured after taking into account inpatient, outpatient and other associated costs.

Other benefits of employees are scheduling benefits. Patients have access to medical attention when they need it, and even just as importantly, where they need it. Patients also have access to reduced prices (more than 40 percent) to prescriptions as well as access to naturopathic doctors. Other services include patient advocacy programs to assist those struggling with billing issues and finding facilities and laboratories that are highly cost effective.

HealthNation believes that a combination of all of these benefits will reduce the health risks of employees, increase employee loyalty and productivity, allow for fewer sick days and more days at work.

Romano, however, acknowledges the difficult transition between traditional medicine and telemedicine. She says the biggest transitional period occurs during the adjustment to the mindset that telemedicine, and not any other traditional approach, is now the first line of defense against challenges to health.

“Patients need to be educated on being proactive with their healthcare needs, to use online resources for wellness programs to stay healthy,” Romano says. “When acute illness occurs, access the healthcare system initially using telehealth rather than go into the ER or urgent care. It is more cost effective, convenient and safe. Often times, people just need information, and the comfort of talking with a doctor and the peace of mind go a long way.”

HealthNation believes, however, that this instant, 24-hours/seven-days-a-week access to certified physicians will allow patients a myriad of options and strategies for a more proactive and healthy lifestyle.

For more information on HealthNation and telemedicine, visit HealthNation’s website at healthnation.net.