Guest post by Raymond Hino, president and CEO of the Sonoma West Medical Center in California.
Telemedicine systems, including remote presence technology, have evolved over the years from stationary workstations to mobile carts to the latest "robotic" units that self-propel themselves down our hospital corridors without a driver, according to preprogrammed GPS instructions. This technology has been credited with bringing specialists, including critical care intensivists, to the bedside in hospitals where no such practitioners live or work within hundreds of miles.
Through my experience as a hospital CEO, I have seen our hospitals benefit through coverage in a variety of applications, including intensive care unit and hospitalist coverage and specialty consults in both inpatient and outpatient clinic settings. I have seen ICUs that have reopened after the introduction of telemedicine and remote presence physician coverage of the units. In short, telemedicine has proven itself as a revenue producing service for our hospitals.
Today, under the Affordable Care Act and with the proliferation of accountable care organizations, hospitals are finding ways to use telemedicine technology to not only increase revenue streams, but to also improve patient care quality and reimbursement by reducing readmission rates. We have found that skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), which may not have had access to the same level of telemedicine technology, are willing to partner with hospitals to bring advanced technology and access to specialists to SNF beds. We are able to provide access to the SNF in the specialties of pulmonology, neurology, psychiatry, dermatology and intensivist care by using telemedicine applications.