The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made great progress in advancing the position of health information technology in the U.S. healthcare system. Prior to the ACA, most care providers relied heavily on paper-based systems for filing patient records, communicating with insurance companies, scheduling patient appointments and requesting lab work. Now, an increasing number of care organizations are switching over to electronic health records as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' meaningful use incentive program.
With EHR systems becoming more commonplace in the medical community, many care providers are turning their attention toward the latest wave of HIT – telehealth systems. These devices allow doctors to streamline their operations and deliver quality care to remote patients living in underserved communities. Recently, telehealth systems have begun to take root in medical systems across New England.
Telehealth connections growing in New England
According to Government Health IT, the New England Telehealth Consortium in Maine has been making great efforts to expand the scope of remote HIT capabilities throughout the region. The organization just made its 125th connection in New England, working toward its goal of incorporating 400 care groups into its telehealth network.
Telehealth systems are particularly useful in rural areas of New England, where individuals may not have easy access to doctors for routine checkups or to receive necessary prescription medications. NETC's telehealth network is now currently linking remote areas of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont with digital communication lines and mobile vans for mobile, on-site care.
"Connecting the 125th healthcare site to the NETC network is a testament to years of planning, designing and building," Jim Rogers, the founder of NETC, said in a press statement. Rogers is also president of ProInfoNet, the company managing the implementation of the NETC network. "From satellites enabling mobile health vans to serve rural Maine to crystal clear long-distance consultations for surgery, NETC is powering a cost-savings healthcare revolution."
Not only are NETC's telehealth capabilities improving access and quality of care, but they're also helping local groups save money. Robin Winslow, CEO of Sebasticook Family Doctors, told the news source that she was able to cut back on costs by 75 percent by joining the NETC network. This has also helped improve her organization's efficiency and accuracy of medical practices.
Highlighting the advantages of telehealth
The benefits of employing telehealth systems extend beyond the rural regions of New England. Healthcare IT News reported that remote HIT devices are advantageous for doctors across the U.S. Kevin Quinn, senior vice president of sales and account management for AMC Health in New York, told the news source that there are three distinct areas where telehealth systems can benefit doctors.
Quinn noted that physicians can enjoy improved clarity when using telehealth technology. This is due to the fact that remote monitoring can provide doctors with a greater wealth of information about their patients' health and status at home without needing to come into the office. As a result, doctors have a better picture of their patients' medical needs and progress, allowing them to respond more quickly and stay on top of developing conditions.
Similarly, telehealth allows patients to have a greater awareness about their own health by staying in communication with care providers. The combination of doctor guidance and data from remote monitoring technology can give patients more information about their own conditions.
Last but not least, telehealth technology makes sense for doctors from both a patient management and financial perspective. By investing in these systems, doctors are better able to manage a growing number of patients more efficiently. This allows doctors to see more individuals on a regular basis – whether in the office or remotely – thus increasing their business revenue. In time, telehealth systems offer a huge return on investment.