With the rapid evolution of the health care industry, health care delivery organizations – whether medical clinics, hospitals, or insurance companies – are constantly looking for innovative solutions to meet economic and operational challenges.
Telemedicine – using high-quality, real-time video encounters between patients and provider over the Internet – is a powerful tool that can support healthier patients and bottom lines.
Telemedicine aims to provide care anytime, anywhere, on any type of device—be it a web browser, a mobile phone or tablet, or a kiosk. When telemedicine is integrated into an existing health care system, patients have access to on-demand care securely from quality providers with a simple point and click.
The result? Fewer logistics, less traveling, avoidance of wait times, and reduction of expensive urgent care visits.
Given this transformative technology, a patient’s location and mobility does not limit the scope or quality care. The need to travel to a physical facility is no longer an assumed requirement or a barrier to the provider or patient.
Enlightened companies, including pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS, are opening up not just their “minute clinics” and making basic services like vaccinations available, but are also starting to use telemedicine within their retail stores so patients can visit with a doctor, hundreds or thousands of miles away, including specialists, at their favorite pharmacy.
These retailers are investing in infrastructure and software which deliver extensive telehealth platforms, with on-calls specialists who can be brought in for specific needs, including initial diagnoses of certain conditions.
Powered by the convenience, ease, and affordability of telehealth, providers and patients are no longer be burdened by office hours, or the longstanding paradigm that patients bear the responsibility of physically traveling to the care they require.
Retail telehealth solutions support both patients and caregivers as they navigate the modern-day health care landscape together and create new revenue streams for retail pharmacies.
Walgreens today is charging $49 per visit, offering “Next time skip the waiting room. Video chat with a U.S. board-certified physician who can treat common illnesses like sinus and ear infections, sore throats, and skin problems, 24/7. Doctors can even write prescriptions, if necessary.” Their “MDLive” platform also helps patients connect with live doctors on their phone, online through video chat – even in their homes.
New mergers in the healthcare space, like last December’s $69 billion Aetna and CVS takeover, are poised to give telemedicine a huge boost, according to an analysis by CNBC health and technology reporter Christina Farr. Although telemedicine has been around for nearly 10 years, it has yet to become a household name among consumers. But through partnerships with tech giants, prominent healthcare namesakes are helping it gain recognition, Ms. Farr argues.
When striking the deal with pharmacy giant CVS, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini reiterated the benefits of remote monitoring technologies, including Bluetooth-connected glucose meters coupled with apps for virtual providers that alert patients when their blood sugar levels are off, as a vital part of his strategy — one that will improve care and lower costs.
Telemedicine’s big year? This year. This moment!
All providers of healthcare are wise to take notice and begin planning and rolling out their own solutions – healthier for all in the circle of care.