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Convenient Care: How Retail Care, Telemedicine, and Mobile Are Changing The Health care Landscape

Population Health,Mobile

Blog_images.pngHealth care costs continue to soar, despite the ACA and other initiatives designed to improve patient care and reduce costs. A few recent innovations could help cut costs and improve patient outcomes; retail care clinics, telemedicine and SMS/mobile messaging make it easier for patients to get the care they need at a price they can afford. They also relieve the strain of an overburdened emergency room system and allow facilities to offer better care – and achieve a better bottom line.

Retail Care

More and more patients are opting for retail clinics inside drug and big box stores, according to figures from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A retail care clinic is not equipped to handle emergencies or offer the more extensive list of services provided by an urgent care center, but it can handle minor injuries and illnesses. These retail centers offer clear benefits for patients – low wait times, drastically lowered costs and the ability to be seen the same day. Target, Walgreens, CVS and other retailers have begun offering in-store retail clinics and more stores are expected to begin offering services soon.

Telemedicine

With the climbing costs of health care and a dearth of providers in some locations, telemedicine offers a convenient and affordable solution for patients. Some patients – lacking insurance or afraid of the prohibitive cost of going to the doctor – opt for a trip to the emergency room instead of seeking out timely medical advice.

Telemedicine offers these patients the chance to consult with a health care provider without leaving home and possibly avoid an expensive office or emergency room visit. Opting to consult with a patient via telemedicine not only improves patient outcomes, as patients are more likely to seek out care before a problem becomes a true emergency, but also improves the bottom line for facilities. By reducing the number of emergency room visits, facilities can better serve those patients who do come in and also operate more efficiently. According to figures from the CDC, emergency room visits cost $1,500 and up per patient, even when the patient is sent home. Opting for telemedicine cuts costs dramatically, with an average cost of $40 per visit.

While telemedicine will not replace the primary care physician, it is an ideal substitute and enhancement, offering access to care without making patients resort to a costly emergency room visit. Medicaid, Blue Cross and a variety of other insurers have adopted telemedicine protocols of some type to reduce costs and improve care.

Mobile and SMS Technology

Mobile and text messaging allows providers to stay in touch with patients before, during and after care boosting patient compliance with preparation instructions and treatment plans. Messaging can range from simple alerts regarding upcoming appointments to more complex interactions that include patient reported health status concerning a chronic condition. This communication channel is a cost-effective way of communicating to patients at precisely the moment they need to know something or do something about their care. Much has been written about engaging patients in their care – mobile and SMS technology is one approach to making that goal a reality.

The latest innovations in technology and medicine are designed to benefit both patients and providers. By taking advantage of and embracing these innovations, facilities can improve patient outcomes, increase communication between providers and patients, and cut treatment costs.

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