Telehealth emerges as access tool in healthcare transformation

Consumers want choice and convenience in healthcare.

Ash Shehata

Ash Shehata

Principal, National Sector Leader for HCLS, KPMG US

+1 513-763-2428

Healthcare organizations are faced with addressing the “triple aim” of improving cost, quality and access to medical care. Telehealth has been seen as a tool to improve access with its convenience and availability with mobile apps or personal computers.

Regulators are seeing the value of the technology with states loosening rules about the practice of telehealth and reimbursement improving, the American Telemedicine Association said. 

However, it will take some time for telehealth to reach its full potential to blend telehealth into current care processes. Right now, telehealth is separate from many of the healthcare workflows, which is keeping the technology from reaching its fullest potential – in terms of quality and patient experience.

This can be overcome by addressing the economics, whether that is in health plan design and also how providers are compensated. Despite recent improvements in telehealth reimbursements, many of the payments are tied to in-person visits. Healthcare providers, payers and regulators need to figure out what treatments need to be reimbursed.

Telemedicine, which involves clinician-to-clinician remote consults, is immensely important in emergency care and has shown a great deal of use in treating stroke, since not every facility has neurology covered around the clock. Certain medical specialties, such as psychiatry or dermatology, have a real opportunity to capitalize upon telehealth, as well as non-emergency, urgent care.

Consumers want choice and convenience in healthcare. Millennials are accustomed to having travel, entertainment, shopping done online. It begs the question: How do you make healthcare available online?

KPMG examined the issue of consumerism in healthcare in its paper, Healthcare 2030: The consumer at the center. Consumers will expect healthcare to become as convenient as other services, requiring healthcare providers to embark on digital transformation programs. Telehealth is part of that effort.

Healthcare organizations have been merging to broaden their geographic reach, but also to expand service offerings into primary care. As payers look to shift financial risk to healthcare providers, telemedicine can become a significant tool.

Telehealth is not useful in circumstances where hands on care is required, but it has immense capabilities to help patients who are not dealing with emergencies. It should be deployed in circumstances when the quality of care would be comparable or better than an in-person visit.

Pairing telehealth with Artificial Intelligence (AI) also shows how healthcare can be transformed, especially in dermatology. Studies are showing the benefits of AI in reviewing diagnostic images. We should look to technology to improve the patient experience as well as the quality of care.