Before COVID-19, regulatory barriers and hesitancy from both patients and providers limited telemedicine access. However, the nature of the virus made in-person care a health concern, which resulted in the rise of telemedicine adoption. Adopting teleconsultations during the pandemic made maintaining access to care and managing the spread possible while a vaccine was in the works.
Now that we have a COVID-19 vaccine, community quarantines and social distancing aren’t mandated in most places. The federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration ended on May 11, 2023.
Part of finding a new normal is figuring out where telemedicine fits into our healthcare system now that we are no longer in a PHE. Going back to the way things were doesn’t make sense. Especially with all the long-term benefits that telemedicine programs provide hospitals. Some benefits include specialty care access, lowered night and surge costs, raised quality scores, improved staff retention and an increased bottom line.
- Enhanced Access to Specialty Care
Enhanced access to specialty care is an invaluable asset of telemedicine programs. It is even more valuable because of the physician shortage. The AAMC data projects this shortage will reach 124,000 by 2034. Even with the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2023, specialist access will continue to be limited in hospitals without telemedicine programs. Especially hospitals in rural areas that already struggle to acquire and keep staff.
The virtual availability of key physicians and specialists via telemedicine makes it possible for hospitals to offer a wider range of specialist services, benefit from these services while reducing on-staff specialist costs, decrease patient travel burden, increase specialty revenue and lower patient transfers.
- Lower Night and Surge Coverage Costs
The physician shortage, combined with the aging population, means there isn’t enough staff for the population’s needs. The result is an increased need for staff, which means increased costs for the hospital. Smaller hospitals feel this pain more keenly because budgets aren’t as large, making it harder to compete for needed staff.
Thankfully, with telemedicine, increased costs from night and surge coverage are mitigated. These programs allow increased 24/7 access to care, reduced patient wait times and decreased dependence on high-cost locum tenens when staffing gaps occur.
- Raised Quality Scores
Hospital quality measures are another area that tends to fall through the cracks when facilities don’t have the resources needed to succeed. Low scores are less than ideal because they indicate how well the hospital keeps patients safe from errors, injuries, accidents and infections.
Thankfully, implementing a telemedicine program can mitigate this issue. Hospitals with telemedicine programs experience raised and maintained Census and Leapfrog Scores, lower readmission rates, enhanced patient satisfaction ratings, improved patient outcomes, and faster quality specialist services.
- Improved Staff Physician Retention
Physicians have demanding careers that require a lot of them. However, the hospital culture can increase stress and cause physician burnout.
Hospitals that expect physicians to go above and beyond without reprieve have a higher physician turnover rate. If the hospital has a high turnover rate, it likely also has long recruiting times. A high turnover and long recruiting times create a vicious cycle of burnout and poor staff retention due to team members covering additional shifts over extended periods.
By offloading heavy patient workloads to telemedicine programs, hospitals experience improved staff work/life balance, reduced staff nightshift hours and fewer on-call hours, resulting in decreased physician burnout and improved loyalty.
- Increased Hospital Bottom Line
In addition to all the benefits listed above, telemedicine also increases the bottom line. What hospital wouldn’t want that?
Hospitals with telemedicine programs experience decreased patient transfers, ensured overflow capacity, an increase in higher-priced services without the added cost of on-site physicians, and reduced billing paperwork through physician “pods” of dedicated providers.
Telemedicine provides several long-term benefits that generate value for hospitals of all sizes. If you are looking for a telemedicine program, Eagle has a variety of services, experience with facilities of all sizes and telemedicine physicians to help meet the needs of your hospital.
To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar with NRHA: Telemedicine: The Long-Term Solution to Physician Shortages and Specialty Coverage. Access the webinar here.