Hill Briefing Highlights Extent of Telehealth Utilization

Dr. Jason Tibbels, Chief Quality Officer, Teladoc.
Dr. Jason Tibbels, Chief Quality Officer, Teladoc.

The Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled, “Ensuring Effective Utilization of Telehealth Services.”  HLC has long supported policies that promote telehealth technology as a mode of care delivery that can improve quality and patient satisfaction, as well as alleviate workforce limitations. An expert panel presented on the ability of telehealth to make the delivery of healthcare more efficient, effective, and patient-centric.

The Chief Quality Officer of Teladoc, Dr. Jason Tibbels, said that one in five Americans has had a medically diagnosed mental illness at some point and 96.5 million people live in areas with shortage of mental health providers.  He pointed out that telehealth provides easy access to behavioral therapy in a safe, non-stigmatized environment, with a drastically shortened wait time.  Both patients and physicians have experienced the benefits of adopting virtual care.  He also noted that virtual care should not be viewed as its own separate service in healthcare, rather it is one tool in the healthcare toolbox to deliver quality care.

Ralph Henderson, President of Professional Solutions and Healthcare Staffing at AMN Healthcare, stated that growth of telehealth is being driven by, among other factors, patient convenience, geographic maldistribution of healthcare professionals, an aging population, and the need to increase healthcare provider productivity.  He gave an example of how teletherapy can benefit students in rural schools and positively impact the school community.  He also pointed out that utilizing telehealth has shown to help reduce physician burnout.

Chris Meyer, Director of Virtual Care and Telehealth at Marshfield Clinic Health System, explained how the health system has been utilizing telemedicine for years to reach the rural population it serves.  Patients have access to a telephone service and/or app that provides low-acuity episodic care 365 days a year.  Additional offerings include remote patient monitoring, home recovery care after hospitalization, and intensive outpatient treatment for substance abuse disorders.  He said that quality measures have shown such services to effectively treat patients, lower costs, and increase rapid access to care before health conditions deteriorate and become more costly.