For years, telemedicine has been touted as the next frontier in healthcare. Based on data from multiple health systems, the future has arrived. Some of the country’s largest and most prestigious health systems such as Kaiser Permanente, NewYork-Presbyterian, and Johns Hopkins now boast robust telemedicine programs.
At Kaiser Permanente, virtual patient encounters now outnumber in-person visits. According to CEO Bernard Tyson, his health system saw more than 110 million people last year, with some 59 million connecting through online portals, virtual visits or the health system’s apps. That figure represents more than half of the organization’s total 2016 visits.
“We are going through a major transformation in healthcare,” said Tyson.
At NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP), their suite of telemedicine services includes adult and pediatric emergency and urgent care, virtual follow-up visits for surgical and psychiatric patients, and a second opinion program. Such telehealth adoption has yielded dramatic results. In the ER, for example, low-acuity patients are now seen virtually by an ER physician elsewhere in the health system, reducing average wait times from 2.5 hours to 31 minutes.
Moving forward, NYP aims to make 20 percent of all patient visits virtual, a goal that seems readily attainable given its volume of virtual visits has increased 100 percent every month since it began piloting telehealth services in 2015.
Although telemedicine has yet to significantly impact workers’ compensation or auto, its day is coming. Workplace health clinics, such as the kind operated by Johns Hopkins Medicine, are now augmenting onsite occupational care with telemedicine services. Consider the case of a California factory worker with a blistery hand rash who had her condition treated via a teledermatology visit at her employer-sponsored clinic. It’s only a matter of time before onsite injury assessments, follow-up status calls, and prescription management are conducted virtually, with great cost, comfort and convenience benefits for all parties involved.