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Chasing the ROI of Telemedicine

   November 01, 2016

Virtual visit savings are promising but aren't moving the needle yet.

This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

While some providers are finding a return on investment in telemedicine, measuring such returns involves a multitude of factors.

At the 2016 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference, Kaiser Permanente exhibited its exam room of the future, showing physician-to-physician telemedicine consultations now widely available throughout the Kaiser system.

"It's really personalized, and it builds on our existing relationship with our patients, and it's connected to our electronic medical record," says Angie Stevens, executive director of virtual care IT at the integrated health system and payer, which serves 10.6 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia.

Through this technology, Kaiser physicians can treat a broader range of conditions by conferencing in specialists at other Kaiser facilities, she says.

"In our smaller medical office buildings, such as in the mountains of Colorado, we can't staff all those specialties," Stevens says. Kaiser members can schedule video visits at outlying offices with specialists who join the meeting at the appointed time from wherever they are located in the Kaiser system, she adds.

Members can schedule video visits through traditional means such as the Kaiser call center, and then join the video visits from devices running the app, removing the need for the member to travel to a Kaiser office, she adds.

On the physician or specialist end, within the Epic electronic health record run throughout Kaiser, the clinician's schedule includes a video visit icon at the appropriate time, then turns green to indicate the patient is ready. Then the clinician can join the video visit by clicking on the icon, Stevens says.

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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