3 ways to ensure telehealth doesn't burden systems

Telehealth requires integration into a well-functioning healthcare system.

Telehealth without ancillary diagnostic services and in-person follow-up may not be enough to achieve equity in access in underserved communities—but you can't just abandon patients who would benefit from it, either. 

Telehealth has the potential to greatly expand the reach of medicine, not only in remote areas around the globe, but also for various socioeconomic groups. Like other healthcare technologies, it has the potential to disrupt established patterns of care, lower costs and make access to care more convenient. 

But is that enough?


Curating a Higher Level of Personalized Care: Digital Health + Mom

A long-term digital health strategy is needed to respond to the technology demands of the modern patient while thriving as an independent hospital in a fiercely competitive market. In this webinar, Overlake and one of its digital health partners, Wildflower Health, will discuss how Overlake has approached digital health and why it chose to focus early efforts on expectant moms within its patient population.

“Many experts have suggested that telehealth services for underserved populations require integration with the wider healthcare system; however, they require more than that,” Lori Uscher-Pines, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, and Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., an associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School and a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center write in a Health Affairs blog post. 

“Telehealth requires integration into a well-functioning healthcare system that has the capacity to address all the additional patient needs that telehealth generates.”

RELATED: How telehealth is shaping the future of healthcare

In fact, after evaluating two services for the underserved, the researchers learned that telehealth can actually stress the healthcare system further by identifying problems that require longitudinal care when there aren’t enough resources to see patients in-person in a timely manner. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean systems should abandon telehealth or the patients who might require in-person care after using it. 

Solutions, the authors write, might include the following: 

  • Avoid starting telehealth programs in communities that are at capacity.
  • Work with local providers to formally create slots for telehealth patients who require in-person follow-up.
  • Create hybrid brick-and-mortar and telehealth programs.

Suggested Articles

Banner Health has agreed to pay up to $6 million to victims of a 2016 data breach as part of a proposed settlement, according to court documents.

Fitness tracker company Fitbit is teaming up with a Medicaid plan in Georgia to encourage beneficiaries to better manage their chronic conditions.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal sent a letter last week to Google and Alphabet leaders pressing for more information on data collection activities.