Telemedicine continues to grow in communities and throughout the healthcare system. Its place in rural communities remains steadfast as seen in the example of small Minnesota hospitals using video cameras to connect babies born in distress to neo-natal specialists at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester hospital. Its expansion remains eminent as more physicians want to provide convenience and more insurers begin to pay for it.
How Telemedicine is Transforming Care
The nature of telemedicine – being able to diagnosis and treat patients using telecommunications technology is transformative in and of itself. For medical centers, specialists and hospitals it’s transforming the possible delivery of a growing number of healthcare services.
Kaiser Permanente announced last year that of its 110 million member-physician interactions, over half were conducted via smartphone, videoconferencing, kiosks, or other technology tools. For the first time, more services were brought to members online than patients coming to providers to receive services.
So yes, it’s catching on and technology continues to respond with improved smartphones, connected medical devices used to monitor chronic conditions and for staying physically fit as well as faster internet connections.
Overcoming Regulatory Obstacles in Telemedicine
There are still challenges that remain in utilizing telemedicine. According to a 2015 American Hospital Association (AHA) study, legal and regulatory obstacles such as physicians’ licensing to treat patients across state lines, liability, privacy, cybersecurity, and inconsistent reimbursement rates make it difficult to implement telehealth. There’s also concern about depersonalizing care and some physician resistance associated with accessing care in this manner.
New Services Making It Easier to Find Care
Yet despite some remaining hurdles, many see the benefits outweighing the disadvantages. New apps and platforms continue to enter the market.
Teledoc, which has been in use for a couple years, offers remote on-demand care via the internet and mobile devices.
A new offering, Bright.md’s SmartExam, provides a platform to make each telehealth visit just two minutes long, compared to the 13-16 minutes physicians spend in a traditional office visit with patients, according to a 2016 Medscape physician compensation report.
The SmartExam combines a patient’s responses with information from medical records and sends the data to a physician who can select the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, while also sending a prescription to the patient’s pharmacy and adding all the information to the patient’s medical record.
Telehealth provides convenience for patients and helps address the issue of physician burnout and shortages. As consumer demand increases, reimbursement and other issues will likely be resolved and more patients will be using telemedicine in perhaps a variety of it forms.
Source: Modern Healthcare. The two-minute virtual doctor visit. March 2017. P28