It’s time to give healthcare’s outdated terminology an update, according to health system CEOs. That’s particularly true when it comes to telemedicine.
“We don’t talk about tele-banking,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health and president of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, paraphrasing a conversation he had with former Apple CEO John Sculley. “It’s just that 90% of banking used to be done at the bank,” and now it’s “90% being done at home.”
Instead of viewing telemedicine as a new technology project, health systems should think of it as a care-delivery method and component of a broader shift toward “healthcare at home,” Klasko said.
The shift—also known as hospital at home—would allow patients to access acute-care services remotely through a mix of at-home visits, telemedicine and remote monitoring.
“By 10 years from now, that won’t be an emerging model—that will be the model,” said Kate Henderson, Ascension Texas’ south group president.
But selling virtual care as a smart idea can be challenging while the industry continues the slow slog away from fee for service. Boosting virtual visits means decreased utilization in a brick-and-mortar facility, and not every organization is ready to embrace that shift.
It comes down to viewing everything through the patient’s eyes and creating value based on their needs, said Dr. J. Gavin Helton, president of clinical integration at Mercy Virtual, part of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy.
“Mercy is making that investment now so patients benefit later,” Helton said, noting that Mercy in 2015 opened a 125,000-square-foot center to support telehealth.
Emerging innovations, such as digital health apps and wearables, will also play a role in the shift to home-based care. But as digital health interventions become more common, the industry will be tasked with cautioning patients about what American Medical Association CEO Dr. James Madara called “digital snake oil.” He referenced a blood-pressure app that earned high user ratings, despite research that suggests it gives inaccurate results.
“I am enthusiastic about this digital future,” Madara said. “But it has a lot of work to do to separate the cream that we’re going to rely on from a lot of other things that consumers view as health, but they’re really entertainment.”