By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Just one third of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme's primary care providers have been trained in tele-health systems that cover around 20,000 patients, it was revealed yesterday.
Dr Monique Thompson, the NHI Authority's manager of healthcare quality and wellness, told a webinar that while the full tele-health roll-out was not complete, one-third of primary care providers have been trained to use a system that allows doctors to practice medicine and assess patients remotely.
"Even with our broader roll-out of our electronic health record (EHR) solution, we took a phased approach," she said. "Even though that phased approach has been ramped up, we are still not fully implemented.
"We have 90 providers on board with us in our network, and 30 of them have been trained in tele-health and have the ability to use the system at this time. As I said it is still early but they are becoming more proficient in it and using it more. But we are not fully implemented at this time."
Dr Thompson explained that the tele-health platform was incorporated within NHI's EHR platform, which all healthcare providers will be using by the 2021 first quarter.
She added: "We have this tele-health feature and, unlike our EHR implementation with the broader roll-out, which is mandatory for all providers joining our network, the tele-health is optional. But we do anticipate that providers will join because it does offer benefits for patients and providers, so we have had a really good reaction from our doctors. We anticipate that 60 to 70 percent of our providers, and that would probably be done by the end of the year.
"So far our patients have really had a positive response to it [tele-health], and they are looking forward to continuing to use it. The biggest impact I would have to say is convenience, because the world was sort of mandated to do these remote visits.
"It used to be normal for doctors to visit with patients who are sick at home and it made sense, because someone who was sick, they don't have to worry about the hassle of getting up and getting the energy to come out and see their doctor. So the doctor used to come to the patient, and doctors can now come to their patients with patients not just having to be a little tech-savvy. So the biggest impact has been convenience."
Dr Thompson said tele-health has "saved the individuals who use it a lot of money", and has "improved mental health and health outcomes". She added: "When you look at the challenges with the continuity of care, it really affords or provides access to tele-health or quality healthcare where it previously was a challenge.
"We have approximately 20,000 beneficiaries who are covered by those 30 physicians, so for us that is roughly a quarter of the beneficiaries we have in our pool. So that is approximately 20,000 people that can access tele-health."