Efforts to Reduce Hospital Readmissions in the United States
In the United States, hospitalization accounts for over 30 percent of all health care spending. With the federal government focused on cutting down mounting medical costs, efforts to reduce hospital readmissions are on the rise. One way that medical professionals and organizations are doing this is by using telemedicine technology.
Telehealth and Rural Populations
Telehealth emergency laws cover electronics and communications technology that can overcome distance and cost barriers to improve medical services in rural and remote areas. The health of rural populations in the United States is affected by a lack of medical doctors. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the ratio of physicians in rural areas is 39.8 per 100,000 residents.
Telehealth provides a way to expand patient care in areas facing a shortage of physicians. This is extremely important for monitoring chronic conditions such as diabetes. Telemedicine is also used to provide psychiatric treatment as well as care in areas such as dermatology. With increased access to care, patients with chronic health concerns can receive the treatment they need to stay out of the hospital.
Reducing Hospital Readmission With Telemedicine
More than 50 percent of all hospitals use telemedicine, and that number continues to rise. One of the major reasons hospitals utilize telehealth technologies is to reduce rates of readmission. Hospitals have an interest in reducing readmission rates because they can face penalties if they have patients readmitted for conditions such as heart failure, pneumonia, and COPD.
In addition to providing remote monitoring through video conferencing and phone calls, telemedicine can help keep patients out of the hospital by tracking vital signs such as blood pressure and oxygen levels. Telehealth technologies can also be used to help patients with medication management, which is an important part of keeping patients out of the hospital.
Education and Professional Development
Along with supporting service delivery, telehealth is being used to provide medical education and professional development for physicians and medical care management professionals. As new professionals enter the workforce, an increasing number will have medical education backgrounds from telemedicine schools.
Telehealth and telemedicine technology is also playing an increasingly important role in supporting research. By improving access to physician education and research collaboration, telemedicine can help medical professionals improve their practice and reduce hospital readmission rates among their patients.