Outpatient telehealth visits are well-suited for rural patients who may have difficulty traveling to their nearest health care facility. For instance, a mid-Atlantic-based health system recently began a telehealth pilot project in its rural primary care clinics to help patients who are battling opioid addictions.
When a primary care doctor meets with a patient struggling with addiction in the clinic, the patient has the option of a telehealth visit with a licensed psychiatrist located at the system’s hub campus. This is helpful for primary care physicians who have limited time to treat complex psychiatric issues during a visit.
Overall, the patients must be physically present for the majority of their visits to manage their prescriptions for controlled substances. However, if regulations relax in the future, more in-person visits could occur through telehealth instead, which ultimately could impact the amount of physical space required for the clinic.
Urban patients also can benefit from the convenience of virtual visits. Using a tablet or computer, patients can consult with their providers, avoid missing work, and save both time and money. Clinics benefit as well. The freed-up capacity can be used for patients who require an in-person visit, and a new referral source is opened.
One such provider in the Southeast offers routine telehealth visits for many common conditions through its downloadable desktop/laptop program or smartphone app. Within minutes, a patient can link virtually with a physician or nurse practitioner and can receive care and access to certain prescriptions, for an out-of-pocket charge of $49 for each virtual video-based visit.
The service offers not only a convenience to patients, but also allows the system to reach a new target audience that otherwise may not have used the system’s services, and potentially can act as a source of referrals to the system’s primary care providers.