In 2008, when Don Berwick authored the Triple Aim, he set forth a vision to improve the healthcare of all Americans. This week, as we celebrate National Public Health week, I want to revisit the goals of the Triple Aim and start a discussion about how telemedicine can help us realize these goals.
At its heart, the Triple Aim is an effort to improve the U.S. healthcare system by simultaneously pursuing three goals: 1) improving the patient experience, 2) improving population health, and 3) reducing the cost of care.
Whether it is long-wait times at the point of care or having to take off work to see a physician, patient’s face a multitude of issues when trying to engage with the healthcare system. While we have the most advanced diagnostic tests and medical devices, the way we deliver care has remained mostly unchanged for the past 40 years. People can set up dates with the swipe of a finger on Tinder, have anything delivered to your front door in a few hours using Favor, but most patients still have to drive to the doctor’s office for a simple acne follow-up.
Telemedicine is changing that by offering a transformational improvement to the existing healthcare delivery system. Now with a simple web platform or phone app, patients can be seen from the comfort of their home, without wait-times or travel. In addition, recent studies have found that patients are highly-satisfied with this mode of communication with their physician (no surprise here).
Not only are patients satisfied with telemedicine technology, but it is easy to see how physicians are also eager to engage with their patients over the web. Unlike EMR’s where government regulation has mandated adoption, we have seen a significant uptick in physician adoption of telemedicine with zero government intervention!
Improving Population Health
Improving public health requires that patients have access to healthcare. For many people, a drive to the hospital or a physician office is not a short trip. If this is the case, it is easy to see why so many people wait until they have an emergency to see a physician. Prevention and proper chronic care management is key to maintaining and improving health.
With telemedicine visits, access to a specialist no longer involves taking the day off. Whether it is the early detection of a life-threatening melanoma or consistent heart disease management, a doctor visit or follow-up is as easy as logging into a mobile phone app! As we reach critical mass with telemedicine adoption, I expect to find a population more engaged with their healthcare. And more engaged patients always leads to a healthier population.
Lowering costs with Telemedicine
Convenience is always a factor when deciding to seek care. But costs are an even greater factor. While I won’t go into specific details (google RAND Health Insurance Experiment), higher costs have been demonstrated to prevent even sick patients from visiting a physician. To see how telemedicine reduces costs you just have to look at the most frugal customers: employers. A 2014 study found that 37 percent of large employers planned to cover telemedicine visits this year. Better yet, just google online doctor visits and you’ll see a multitude of services offering virtual visits as low as $35–compare that to the average price of a typical clinic visit of about $100.
Telemedicine is a cost saver not only for patients but also for physicians and insurers. For physicians, they can now treat a patient using far fewer resources and thus can afford to offer these visits at a reduced cost. For insurers, many of whom are feeling the strain of all the new expensive biologic therapies, this should be a welcome cost savings.
Our business was founded on public health principles: improve care, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce the cost of care for all. With MyDerm Portal, we are marching towards the achievement of the Triple Aim and are proud to be doing our part to improve public health!