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It’s a buzzword today, but did you know that telemedicine has existed since the early 1900s and that the phrase was coined in the 70s? Its application has evolved as each exponential wave of technology has revolutionized communications and medicine. Today, its role is more vital than ever as it drives consumer decision-making in healthcare. In fact, a recent study revealed that 77 percent of consumers would be more likely to select medical providers that offer telemedicine services over ones that do not.

So, what is telemedicine? How is it different from telehealth and why does language matter? The Oxford Living Dictionary defines telemedicine as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.” This can mean virtual appointments via video conferencing, an increasing trend in the mental and behavioral health world, transmissions of scans and other imagery between specialists for clinical diagnosis and the use of at-home devices that measure and transmit vital stats to a physician. Telehealth, on the other hand, represents the components of telemedicine as well as a broader spectrum of digital health experiences, including clinical diagnosis, disease management, health education and communication.

While telemedicine is growing in demand and driving patient decision-making, it faces significant barriers in adoption. Regulation, HIPAA, acceptance by payers and inconsistent reimbursement rates make it challenging for healthcare providers to deliver these services in a way that’s mutually beneficial and financially feasible. That said, physicians, hospitals, clinics and private practices continue to explore this opportunity as a convenient and effective way to diagnose and treat patients. And, while telemedicine gains its footing in mainstream healthcare, telehealth is always a viable option that can open doors and fill beds without much red tape.

If you’re a healthcare provider or marketer, chances are that you’ve already made strides in this direction with the adoption of digital tools and resources, such as electronic health records (EHR), after-hours nurse lines, patient portals, text and email appointment reminders, blogs and webinars and education-based social media content. When searching for a new healthcare provider, patients are more likely to gravitate toward modern brands that use the latest resources to better patient outcomes, so be sure to market these online experiences once they are in place. Then, take inventory. Where are there gaps between patient preference and consumer behavior with practice operations? Where can you add value to the lifecycle of care? Answering these questions will help optimize your services and marketing strategies moving forward.

Some steps, such as the implementation of EHR, will require significant investment in time and financial resources. Other digital opportunities exist on a smaller scale and can be deployed with less financial strain and more creativity. This includes:

  • Utilizing apps to share nutrition and exercise choices
  • Partnering with medical device manufacturers offering consumer-friendly tools to manage pain and/or monitor vitals
  • Recording on-campus educational workshops for use as on-demand webinars
  • Utilizing Instagram Stories to share weekly tips from real practitioners

One healthcare provider who has pushed the boundaries and elevated telehealth to a new level is New York Presbyterian (NYP). Recognized by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) as one of 2018’s “Most Wired” hospitals, NYP views technology as a platform to improve the speed of healthcare delivery as well as communication between patients and professionals. As such, NYP continually implements new digital offerings that have positively disrupted the industry and improved the patient experience. This includes:

  • myNYP: A convenient and easily accessible online patient portal that houses medical records, discharge instructions, lab results and prescriptions
  • NYP OnDemand: An app and web-based digital suite of virtual healthcare services, such as urgent care, second opinions, visits, inter-hospital consults and express care for those already in an ER. Earlier this year, NYP enhanced the program with secure kiosks at select Duane Reade that offer devices to measure vitals as well as technology to reach board-certified emergency physicians who can conduct virtual examinations.

In an experience economy, the world continues to move towards accessibility and convenience. Healthcare providers like New York Presbyterian that embrace this mindset, through telehealth and beyond, will lead the market while those who don’t risk loss in market share.

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