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Bridging the Telehealth Gap: Why the Integration of Laboratory Testing Makes a Difference
By Frank Cockerill, MD & CMO, Analyte Health
Telehealth is offering a cost-effective solution for patients, physicians, employers, payors, and provider networks alike. With healthcare costs mounting, access constricting, and the population rapidly aging, telehealth is affecting the cost and access curve by allowing physicians to diagnose and treat across geographic lines.
Telehealth is reducing time and costs associated with virtual care, as it seeks to impact wellness and prevention. According to studies, the average cost of a virtual visit is $40 to $50, while in-person care can cost as much as $176 per visit. Studies also show 90 percent of large employers will make telehealth services available to employees in 2017, and almost all large employers will offer virtual care solutions resulting in an estimated 27 million telehealth visits by 2020.
But a Critical Gap Exists in the Current Virtual Care Continuum
Laboratory testing has always been an important part of diagnosis and treatment. In fact, testing is the single highest-volume medical activity with an estimated 4 to 5 billion tests performed in the United States each year. Why? Because it is widely regarded as the best way to provide a confident diagnosis and a clear path for treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an estimated 60 to 70 percent of all decisions regarding a patient's diagnosis, treatment, hospital admission, and discharge are based on laboratory test results.
Telehealth is making it possible to seamlessly connect a patient to a local testing center with a completed order request in minutes
And yet, today, many telemedicine companies are operating without an efficient way to manage lab testing within the telehealth model.
As the virtual care movement has evolved with convenience at its center, why should it not be a key component of telehealth? Today’s consumers crave flexibility and on-demand services that provide instant gratification. Amazon has built its business model around this premise – and it wouldn’t be as convenient or successful if there was a single location you had to go pick up your packages from after placing an order online. Likewise, if you’re having a virtual consult with your doctor for efficiency and convenience, you would want to make finding a lab for necessary follow-up testing as easy as possible.
What Does the Future Hold for Telehealth?
Where ordering and completing a lab test in a traditional setting can take days, telehealth is making it possible to seamlessly connect a patient to a local testing center with a completed order request in minutes, and could allow them to even schedule a lab technician for an in-home visit.
By incorporating convenient and consumer oriented lab testing into virtual visits, telehealth will be able to ensure confident, timely, and accurate diagnoses and will become a mainstream option for non-critical patient care.
What Does This Mean For You?
We know consumers are front and center in today’s tech world and healthcare has quickly evolved in the telehealth era to follow suit. Innovative partnerships – like the ones bringing laboratory testing to the virtual care landscape – are proof that the consumer has never been more top of mind when it comes to delivering healthcare services and creating new technology.
CIOs implementing a telehealth solution at their organizations need to work with a company that not only has the knowledge and credibility within the space, but that also understands today’s consumer health care needs. At the end of the day, telehealth is a tool that connects patients to the best and most convenient point of care – regardless of physical location or provider network red tape. It becomes an interesting way to think about how we use technology to triage patients based on their health issue and improve access to the complete continuum of care.