New year, new outlook for telehealth solutions
Thank you for keeping up with Health Navigator in 2016. We look forward to connecting with you throughout the coming months, as we share information about changing telehealth and eHealth technology. We’ll also share how you can use the Health Navigator platform to improve care for your patients and customers.
To kick the year off, we thought we’d share a few thoughts on what 2017 has in store for telehealth:
1. Telehealth and telemedicine will evolve as a health benefit.
In 2016, 74 percent of employers planned to offer telehealth benefits in states where it was legal, and 9 in 10 plan to offer telehealth services in 2017. As consumer demand for convenient health care grows, we expect to see telehealth evolve as a covered health service under employer-sponsored insurance plans. This demand will also be fueled by the health care provider need to maximize reimbursement related to MACRA regulations.
2. Gradual expansion of access to telehealth in rural areas and areas without access to specialty care.
Many people in rural areas have less access to specialty medicine, and they must travel long distances for these consultations. Reports have shown that telehealth encounters offer increased access to high-quality care and reduced costs. Telehealth consultations can help those in rural areas get access to care, when and where they need it.
3. Growth due to MACRA.
Telehealth has been shown to improve access to health care and reduce costs – which aligns with the shift to value-based care and related Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) requirements. Experts have estimated that these industry developments will drive an increase in the use of telemedicine services.
To learn more about the future of telehealth and technology solutions, contact us for a demonstration of the Health Navigator platform.
Symptom checkers demonstrate increasing accuracy
Did you know 35 percent of American adults say they use the Internet to self-diagnose or to help someone else self-diagnose? That means more than one-third of people believe they should have access to health information online. Many people use this information to decide what their next steps will be, so it’s vital that online resources are accurate.
Online diagnostic tools have historically been viewed as notoriously inaccurate, but current research shows this is no longer the case. A study conducted in 2015 by a team of researchers at Harvard Medical School, led by Hannah Semigran, analyzed the diagnostic and triage accuracy of 23 online symptom checkers. The study, entitled “Evaluation of symptom checkers for self diagnosis and triage,” showed that the symptom checkers performed as follows:
- The correct diagnosis was listed as the first option in 34 percent of patient interactions,
- The correct diagnosis was listed in the top three options in 51 percent of cases, and
- The correct diagnosis was listed within the top 20 options in 58 percent of cases.
At the time, the suggested inaccuracy of symptom checkers was big news. But new solutions – like Health Navigator – have helped to move the needle on accuracy and consistency. As a result of the evolving industry, Semigran conducted a follow-up analysis focused on the Health Navigator symptom checker in 2016, and found that it performed as follows:
- Listed the correct diagnosis first in 56 percent of patient interactions (vs. 34 percent for all other symptom checkers);
- Listed the correct diagnosis in the top three possible causes in 78 percent of cases (vs. 51 percent); and
- Listed the correct diagnosis within the top 20 possible causes in 96 percent of interactions (vs. 58 percent).
Our team at Health Navigator is exceedingly proud of these results and we aim to continue improving as a diagnostic platform, to ensure that symptom checkers remain effective tools for consumer engagement and health information education.
The cold truth about winter
While many people enjoy making snow angels and building snowmen, the winter cold can be dangerous. As temperatures dip into the negative numbers and snowstorms sweep many parts of the country, consumers and health care professionals need to be aware of the risks of overexposure to the winter elements.Frostbite is a cold-related injury to the skin, and can result in anything from pain to tissue loss. Frostbite commonly affects the ears, nose, fingers and toes. However, a person with frostbite can have a normal internal temperature.
Different people have different risk factors for frostbite. Factors like mental illnesses, diabetes, poor circulation, or congestive heart failure increase a person’s risk for frostbite. Providing After Care Instructions for a wide variety of Illnesses and injuries is a key element of the Health Navigator platform. After Care Instructions for frostbite include:
- Drinking warm liquids;
- Moving into a warm room;
- For fingers and toes, put the body part in very warm water (104° to 108°F or 40° to 42°C) for about 30 minutes; and
- For the face, put a warm, wet washcloth on the area for about 30 minutes.
For more severe frostbite, the last 10 minutes of rewarming can be painful. If you are not using a tub, keep the rest of the body warm with blankets or additional clothing. For pain associated with frostbite, you may take an over-the-counter pain relief drug.To prevent frostbite, change wet clothing immediately after being outdoors. You should also minimize time spent outdoors in freezing temperatures and dress in layers. Signs of frostbite include a cold or prickling feeling in the skin, numbness, discoloration, stiffness, and blistering in severe cases.
Learn more about Health Navigator’s index of After Care Instructions for weather-related health conditions.