Clinically Integrated Networks Must Embrace Telehealth to Succeed, Says Telemedicine Pioneer Dr. Rosser

| URAC Staff
blurred image of surgery room with surgeon and tray of tools

The future is now when it comes to telehealth, says James “Butch” Rosser, Jr., MD, FACS. “You have to embrace” it, he told attendees in his keynote presentation at the Telemed Leadership Forum 2018, March 27 in Washington, D.C. co-sponsored by URAC.

Click here to view Dr. Rosser’s keynote video.

However, Dr. Rosser cautions against becoming just another “one-hit wonder.” He’s observed too many so-called telehealth programs that lacked any kind of meaningful network infusion. In those instances, the moniker is used largely as a marketing tool.

Dr. Rosser is a practicing physician and general surgeon and is currently clinical professor of surgery at the University of Central Florida. He’s a widely respected author and entrepreneur with a specialty in diseases of the esophagus and stomach.

“I’m here to tell you today that if you are going to do telemedicine and telehealth, you must feature beyond the core telemedical applications.” These include urgent and non-urgent mental health, CHF management, respiratory disease management, wound care, post-procedural follow-up, physician therapy and rehabilitation, and non-sedated PA screening endoscopy.   

In other words, a successful telemedicine program has many threads woven throughout a healthcare service regimen. “You’ll see pockets of [individual telemedicine offerings] but it’s not really integrated into the rest of the enterprise,” he said.

The pillars of a successful clinical integrated network (CIN) cannot be achieved unless telemedicine is transplanted into the DNA of a network,” Dr. Rosser said. “We must champion telemedical applications in order to have successful clinical integration.”

At a time when the general population is aging, and some healthcare specialties are seeing a shrinking workforce, the benefits of telemedicine have never been clearer, or more important, he said. “There are so many advantages,” including better resource utilization, decentralization of care, higher satisfaction levels for patients and improved access to second opinions, Dr. Rosser said.

He shared some sobering statistics illustrating significant gaps in the current healthcare delivery system:

  • Some 50 million people live in healthcare provider shortage areas.
  • More than 75 percent of rural counties have a provider shortage.
  • More than 60 percent of patients lack care outside of the emergency room on nights and weekends.

While he applauded telemedical application advances in a number of treatment areas – notably stroke recovery – Rosser implored attendees to push harder and aim higher.

He suggested that telemedicine can have the greatest impact on the diseases that are most expensive to the network. For example, stroke recovery, at an estimated $33 billion, is far down the list of costliest diseases. Heart disease sits atop that list at a staggering $193.4 billion, followed closely by diabetes at $176 billion, and dementia at $159 billion. “It’s a great start,” he said. “I love it, I’ll take it, but we need to see more aggressive” use of telehealth.

Dr. Rosser challenged the audience to continue to explore new ways to use telemedicine and telehealth. He cited promising treatment areas, including

  • Urgent and non-urgent mental health;
  • Congestive heart failure management;
  • Respiratory disease, COPD, and asthma;
  • Post-op follow-ups; and
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation.

These and other treatments must “permeate” throughout a network to truly fuel a successful program.   “We can do this,” Dr. Rosser said. The tools are capabilities are here, he stressed. The final ingredient?  “We need the will.”

All sessions from the Telemed Leadership Forum 2018 are available on our On Demand library

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