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How Telemedicine Drives Volume, Revenue

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, October 22, 2013

Intermountain will roll out the new telemedicine infrastructure, including all 2,800 hospital beds in its system, during the next 12 to 18 months, "faster if we figure out how to do it," Valdes says. "We're prioritizing things like the ED and the intensive care units first."

At this year's American Telemedicine Association meeting, Intermountain demonstrated its latest telemedicine technology for neonatal intensive care as well. A prior implementation at Intermountain's McKay-Dee Hospital Center was supposed to allow parents to be able to view infants in neonatal bassinets, but the cameras were embedded in fixed ceiling positions. Bassinets were too often covered by blankets, and nurses had to be mindful of where the bassinets were placed. By placing the new cameras within the bassinets themselves, those problems go away.

The newer cameras also reflect the plummeting cost of such technology for telemedicine. "We're actually leveraging consumer-grade Web cams, $70 Web cams you can go pick up at any local electronics store, which again reduced the cost of the implementation, and it was a wild success at the ATA conference," Valdes says.

Another healthcare system that continues to see its telemedicine business grow is nonprofit HealthPartners, a Bloomington, Minn.–based integrated system that reported more than $1.3 billion in total revenue in 2012. Earlier this year, the system reported savings of $88 per office or emergency department visit, compared to the typical office visit or urgent care visit, which can fall in the $120–$140 range. Part of the strategy of this offering, which has resulted in 68,000 treatment plans since it launched in 2010, is attracting visits for certain straightforward conditions, says Kevin Palattao, vice president of patient care systems at virtuwell, the online service front end for HealthPartners' telemedicine services.

He describes the straightforward conditions as those that "behave really well according to rules and protocols, [for example,] bladder infection, sinus infection, pinkeye," Palattao says. "We treat the flu, allergies, and even minor skin rashes. We have a pretty simple picture upload capability, so consumers can share images with us that help increase the accuracy of the diagnosis. Any time the standard of care calls for a physical exam or a lab test, those are the types of things that we stop in the interview process and redirect you to in-person care."

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1 comments on "How Telemedicine Drives Volume, Revenue"


Nirav Desai (10/24/2013 at 8:41 PM)
This is an excellent article in that it highlights some of the key nuances of getting involved in telemedicine. When you're running across states or rural/suburban/urban, you do have to deal with differences in reimbursement. The UC-Davis, Mercy and Intermountain teams are doing some great trailblazing work. Thanks for sharing some of their insights and discoveries.