Before you start down the telemedicine journey, consider how these top 5 factors fit into your practice. It just might save you a little time and energy.
Everyone’s been publishing their 2016 predictions and trends to watch in healthcare. Wearables, big data, patient monitoring, ACO’s, and of course telemedicine are all top of the list. When I was just starting MyDerm Portal, I had much more time to think about predictions and the market. This past year has been a little different as you might imagine. I’ve been deep in the weeds: learning how to acquire customers, how those customers engage with patients on our telemedicine platform, and enhancing our product to optimize use.
One thing which is abundantly apparent is that engaging patients to use telemedicine is probably the most important factor in accelerating telemedicine’s adoption. Building physician awareness about telemedicine is not complete but has definitely been solved. Ask any doctor if they’ve received an email about telemedicine today. Doctors are being bombarded with telemedicine platforms–I know, because we’re one of those companies constantly knocking on the door.
The next step, is educating patients. If you’ve been living in the telemedicine world a while, as I have, it is easy to get lulled into thinking that everyone knows about it–well this past year knocked me back into reality. Ask anybody what an Apple watch or Fitbit does and they’ll immediately tell you. Ask about telemedicine though and you’ll probably get a pause. Well funded companies are blowing through cash to onboard doctors onto their system and then those doctors are left with an expensive, underutilized platform without any help. There have been a lot of grumblings about Teladoc’s per-member-per-month fee. They claim it is used for marketing to help their customers increase patient engagement. If that’s true, then I get it!
What we’ve learned at MyDerm Portal is that onboarding a new customer is very much just the beginning. Now we’re partners. Now we need to help them realize the value of telemedicine. That means helping them educate and raise the awareness of telemedicine to their patients. For us, 2016 means maximizing the patient engagement of our customers!
A Report on Teledermatology
As 2015 comes to a close, I want to share the most valuable lessons we’ve learned from operating a teledermatology solution.
Obviously, there are a lot of potential patients that can benefit from a teledermatology visit. Access to a dermatologist can sometimes be challenging and even if a patient has a scheduled appointment, making that appointment can often be difficult given our busy schedules. With that said, from what our dermatologists tell us, the best teledermatology candidates share some common characteristics. Cash pay patients: For many of these patients, teledermatology is usually a no-brainer given that a virtual visit can represent a significant discount to a in-person appointment. Patients with high-deductible insurance plans also experience the same benefit. Working parents: As mentioned before, getting to the clinic can be challenging and nobody realizes this more than busy parents. Established patients: While some patients choose a teledermatology visit as their initial care, we see the most volume from patients who have an established relationship with the dermatologist.
Most Common Diagnosis Treated
Over 40% of our telemedicine visits are for Acne. About a third are for Post-Op visits. As you might expect, the remaining patients are comprised of common dermatological conditions (Eczema, Rosacea, Psoriasis).
Our experience is in-line with what most published studies have found. Patients love it! Most of our patients report they are Very Satisfied with their telemedicine visit and the majority would recommend the service to a friend or family member. What is surprising is the wide age range of patients using telemedicine. We’ve seen patients from 18 all the way up to 74 years young!
Clinic workflow is vital to success in healthcare. Starting anything new, like teledermatology, can be disruptive to any effectively managed process and so we’ve monitored this closely. We’ve had to constantly improve how practices sign up patients, introducing new tear pads that allow clinic staff to offload the patient signup process. In addition, we’ve introduced a messaging system that streamlines questions patients have about their treatment plan.
A teledermatology solution without marketing support can make it difficult for a clinic to realize the full benefits of offering telemedicine. For this reason, we now provide a full suite of marketing assets to assist the clinic with ramping up telemedicine in their practice. Marketing is not a one-time thing–it is an ongoing activity that clinics just don’t have the time to do and we can now help support clinics with this aspect of their business.
Benefits Aren’t All Monetary
While teledermatology brings in revenue just as in-person visits do, the benefits are far greater than that. Teledermatology helps with patient retention. Those patients that miss their clinic visit now have the option to do a telemedicine visit–maintaining continuity of care and keeping that patient engaged with your practice. Practices using our platform have very high patient satisfaction and offering telemedicine helps maintain that level of satisfaction. Some benefits have no monetary value but help the dermatologist provide a very high-level of care and peace of mind. A great example of this are Post-Op visits. Now the dermatologist has a secure way see the healing progress after surgery and detect infections much earlier, all without sacrificing valuable clinic time for a simple check up. In fact, just last week our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Peña, performed a post-op visit with a patient who reported healing well but spotted an infection from the submitted pictures.
Want to learn more about MyDerm Portal and how we can help implement teledermatology in your dermatology practice? Schedule a demo at a time that works best for you http://mydermportal.com/myderm-portal-demo/
New And Improved
Our customers have transformed the patient experience, making it easier than ever to provide access to high-quality dermatological care. The response from patients has been incredible as well! They love being able to conveniently follow-up with their favorite dermatologist through their mobile device or computer. Meanwhile, our tech and product teams have been incredibly busy gathering feedback and developing new features to enhance and expand our offering. With all this work, I’m proud to announce the launch of MyDerm Portal 2.0! Below you can read about just a few of the new features included in this release.
Online Dermatology Visits
We’ve found that patients want online access to more than just dermatology follow-up visits. We listened, and launched an incredible new feature that allows existing and prospective patients to start an online visit on their own. Patients simply go to your practice website and click on “Start Visit” and we take it from there! Patients answer a few screening questions for safety and accuracy. Next they upload photos and answer an assessment that is unique to their condition–don’t worry, no large blank boxes! We help you get the right information you need to assist your patients. Now you can see more patients, online, at your convenience. And online visits still take less than 2 minutes to complete with our customizable report templates.
Here’s a scenario: Patient calls you with a skin issue. They try and describe it but they don’t know what plaques are. You just wish you had a photo. You might ask a patient to text or email you a photo, but what about HIPAA? We get it; you just want to help your patients. Don’t worry, there’s an app for that! PhotoXpress is a standalone feature we created just for you. In less than 10 seconds you can securely request a patient photo from your phone using PhotoXpress. Patients get a text or email with a unique link to upload and share photos. Your phone number or email isn’t shared and we take care of security. View photos directly from your phone.
Redesigned Clinic Interface
The clinic user interface has been redesigned to make completing online patient visits even faster. In addition to working great on your iPad or Android tablet, we’ve given you the ability to customize and develop your own response templates. This means you can customize the response to every patient patient condition with the click of a button.
We know you’re not at a computer all day. You might not check your email obsessively like we do. Don’t worry, we fixed that. Now you can easily configure your MyDerm Portal settings to get a text message notification anytime a patient submits a visit. Now you’ll never miss a patient visit!
This post originally appeared on The Dermatologist
Dermatology is one of the few medical specialties that has been at the forefront of telemedicine. The recent American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) annual convention in San Francisco provides the best pulse of telemedicine in dermatology. Even though the conference attracts more than 17,000 attendees across the globe, all of the telemedicine talks featured dermatologists practicing in the United States.
Despite dermatology’s long history of telemedicine activity, this year offered the most striking uptick in interest from private practice dermatologists. What follows are the 4 take-aways from a non-clinician attendee who’s been following teledermatology since 2008:
Finally, reimbursement is not the hot-topic
Historically, reimbursement has been one of the first questions asked by a dermatologist in the crowd. Can I get reimbursed? Under what conditions can I get reimbursed? These are usually the issues that are top of mind with dermatologists. No more!
Now, the first questions are around liability. Dermatologists, like a lot of physicians, are justified to think that they might be opening themselves up to yet more malpractice claims by practicing telemedicine. The good news, reported in one of the talks, is that there has been no litigation to date attributed to the practice of teledermatology.1 In reality, it is hard to say if this is indicative of the future given the scope of telemedicine practiced in most dermatology clinics. In my own experience and interviews, telemedicine can often be covered under a dermatologist’s existing professional liability policy if performed under the proper care model. To be safe though, every practice should examine their policy before adopting any telemedicine.
Dermatologists now have more choices
The market has been expanding to meet the increasing interest in telemedicine and at the recent AAD conference and exhibit hall in San Francisco, Calif. this was obvious. I counted six teledermatology companies attending the conference. Many of these companies are still very young with the oldest founded just 3 years ago.
With new telemedicine platforms popping up every day, I expect next year to have more than double the number of companies. This is great news for dermatologists because competition brings choice, lower prices and better products.
Dermatologists who study telemedicine aren’t comfortable with direct-to-consumer care models
Direct-to-consumer is a patient initiated visit in which a diagnosis is given remotely, via telemedicine, without ever establishing a prior patient-physician relationship in person. To be clear, this does not include patients receiving a teledermatology consult while under the supervision of a primary care physician or in a hospital setting. It is a trend which sparked a growth of telemedicine in dermatology the past couple of years however the AAD came out against this practice in a recent position paper last August.2
It is difficult to say how dangerous, if at all, this practice is except that there is little evidence to date to support its safety and efficacy. This is the area where there is probably the most contention between dermatologists in private practice and those focused in academic practice.
Young Derms Will Not be the Early Adopters of Telemedicine
This is probably the most counterintuitive fact I learned while at the conference. This year’s meeting showed the largest attendance to date at the telemedicine talks. But the seats weren’t occupied by newly minted dermatologist —most were taken by experienced, private-practice dermatologists in their forties and older.
However, with a little reflection this is should not be surprising. Older dermatologists are likely more comfortable with their diagnostic abilities and have an established and growing panel of patients. Based on comments from attendees like these, older dermatologists are looking to continue to grow their practice and teledermatology is one of the most effective ways to accomplish this.
Online dermatology visits becoming a reality
As a patient and health technology advocate, it is exciting to see the interest and adoption of teledermatology accelerating. Telemedicine reimbursement is finally a hot topic for state legislatures with new legislation expanding coverage like the recent proposal in Minnesota.3 This movement in reimbursement along with an acceleration of interest among dermatologist should make for a big year in telemedicine.
- Lee, Ivy. "Medico-Legal Considerations In Teledermatology". The American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting 2015. San Francisco, CA. March 20, 2015.
- American Academy of Dermatology and AAD Association: Position Statements. Position Statement on Teledermatology. August 9, 2014. https://www.aad.org/Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Teledermatology.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2015
- Browning, Dan. Minnesota telemedicine coverage would expand under new bill. February 26, 2015. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/294062701.html. Accessed April 3, 2015.
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!