Integrating Post-Treatment Telehealth Care: How & Why for Payers & Providers

June 1, 2017  

Telehealth is frequently used as a catch all buzzword to describe a number of different services. Industry professionals use it to refer to everything from robotic surgery to telecommunication between doctors via video-conferencing. So, how do we define telehealth in the world of post-treatment care?

When we use the term telehealth we are focused on the use of:

  • Telemedicine and mobile health (mHealth) platforms for managing post-treatment recovery that keep the patient in touch with their provider long after they’ve left the building.
  • Data-collection devices that monitor the patient’s health and can alert their physician when there may be a need for intervention.

Using Telehealth for Long-Term Care

One problem telehealth solves is the need for residential treatment. Costly visits to the doctor’s office are no longer necessary with the advent of telehealth services. Patient’s across the board are embracing telehealth tools and widely regard them as efficient modes of communication and post-treatment maintenance. In fields where long-term recovery is vital to a patient’s treatment success, these tools provide continual monitoring that can be used to prevent dangerous relapses.

Telehealth has obvious benefits for health providers and patients. It helps to streamline the treatment process all the way from early detection and prevention to treatment and even into post-treatment care. Doctors utilizing telehealth, in a method that favors the new movement toward value-based care, are able to leverage critical data to more effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat patients. Telehealth empowers patients who can now receive vital information about their healthcare, the costs, and the progress of their treatment on their own terms.

Telehealth and Value-Based Care

The area of telehealth that is most difficult to calculate value in is it’s benefits for payers. There’s no doubt that payers want to improve the value of treatment. In fact, we saw with the reclassification of Substance Use Disorders as chronic conditions the incentive for payers and providers to treat SUDs with value-based care to improve outcomes.

For a long time individuals with SUD were regarded as criminals, and they were medically treated with this same sort of disregard. As soon as they were treated as patients with a chronic disease, the doors opened up for providers to utilize the same telehealth tools available to other patients and outcomes greatly improved.

Integrating law enforcement and social programs into the healthcare system broadens the availability and variety of treatment programs. A real-time support network held up by the infrastructure of telehealth increases and improves communication for the patient. All of this, in turn, works to improve the treatment process which translates to a lower cost per treatment for payers.

Telehealth on a Federal Level

The FDA has made sweeping efforts to provide regulatory requirements for telehealth devices. Even the federal government understands how inevitable technology is in the advancement of healthcare. They understand the importance that telehealth devices and platforms have in helping patients improve their health and the quality of care they receive. The FDA is currently in the research phase to understand the benefits and risks of a variety of technologies:

  • Wireless Medical Devices
  • Mobile medical apps
  • Health IT
  • Telemedicine
  • Medical Device Data Systems
  • Medical Device Interoperability
  • Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)
  • General Wellness
  • Cybersecurity

This top-down approach to regulation for telehealth devices indicates the importance these technologies will have in improving healthcare. This ideally will lead to a better healthcare system across the board which promotes collaboration and benefits payer, provider, and patient alike.

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