3 Lessons Consumer Telemedicine Can Learn from Institutional Telemedicine

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While consumer telemedicine focuses on video-only tele-visits intended to treat certain minor conditions, institutional telemedicine has a history of successful outcomes and cost savings. TMWS’s Concierge Telemedicine system brings the technology needed for significant cost reductions to the consumer market.

Companies like American Well and TelaDoc offer direct-to-consumer telemedicine with video-only tele-visits. The convenience of getting a prescription for a cough or sore throat without leaving your home is a welcome service. On top of the convenience, these casual care services are inexpensive. It is no surprise that this market sector is growing dramatically.

In spite of that growth, institutional telemedicine has some useful lessons to offer for consumer telemedicine.

1.    Convenience is not enough. Cost savings are critical.

A hallmark of telemedicine is convenience for patients and clinicians, both of whom save costs but in different ways and different degrees of magnitude.

A casual care tele-visit is typically a one-off event to take care of a minor ailment. It typically costs about $50, which is less that an office visit. It is basically a substitution visit where a remote random telemedicine physician is used. If there are complications or the symptoms require use of medical devices to make a diagnosis, then a visit to a local physician would be needed and the patient would essentially be starting over. Any overall cost savings with this treatment model are hard to determine and arguably not substantial.

Institutional telemedicine is centered around hospitals and clinics. The stakes are much greater (in the US, it typically costs $10K a day in a hospital and the typical stay is 4.5 days) but the costs are much greater (even a bare bones telemedicine cart can cost $15K+).

It is well established that telemedicine systems with effective medical devices have been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations, re-hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits. To extend those benefits into the consumer market requires a low cost telemedicine “cart”. At less than $1,000 the Concierge Telemedicine by TMWS provides the clinic grade technology for higher level acuity and chronic conditions that have been proven to achieve reductions in hospitalizations, re-hospitalizations and ER visits

2.    Telemedicine must offer benefits to those responsible for providing health care coverage.

From its earliest days, the convenience of telemedicine has always offered benefits to patients. It enabled immediate care by virtually bringing the patient to the clinician. With appropriate diagnostic tools, that not only saved travel, it saved ER visits and hospitalizations.

But the high cost of institutional telemedicine carts made them unaffordable to the consumer telemedicine market.

Concierge Telemedicine by TMWS is breaking the cost barrier by providing a clinic grade telemedicine system with key medical devices for under $1,000. Consumer applications such as self-insured employers using telemedicine are now able to achieve the savings from reduced hospitalizations and ER visits for its employees and their dependents. This is a most desired win-win situation where both those receiving care and those providing it benefit.

3.    Keep it simple.

High priced products frequently justify the high price by including eye catching features. But many of those “bells and whistles” aren’t needed to achieve the core objectives. Worse yet, they may present complications that are a challenge to an average consumer and an obstacle to a consumer with a chronic condition.

So this lesson from institutional telemedicine is an inverse one and is coupled with Lesson #2. In addition to making the telemedicine system justifiable in more applications, keeping the cost down provides motivation for simplicity of operation.

  •     Only include the medical devices and features the patient needs.
  •     Make all features intuitively obvious and simple to use for the clinician.
  •     Make any action a patient has to take even simpler.

Concierge Telemedicine with a selectable suite of medical devices meets the dual objectives of low cost and simplicity. Even with that it can reduce hospitalizations, re-hospitalizations and ER visits.

About Telemedicine Web Services (TMWS):
TMWS is a technology innovator that markets its telehealth solutions through value added resellers (VAR). By providing each VAR with the flexibility to structure their own model for value-add product offerings, TMWS is fulfilling the demand for consumer telemedicine at a competitive price.

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N. Stefurak
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