Connect with Patients Through Telemedicine

By Damian McNamara, contributor.
Content Marketing, Writing, and Strategy,

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  • The American College of Physicians notes that there are challenges, cautions, and benefits for primary care doctors adopting telehealth.
  • Telemedicine can help physicians and patients remain in routine contact.
  • Telemedicine can also help to save time for staff and patients by enabling communication without an office visit.
  • Legal questions remain unanswered.
  • In many cases it is not clear that insurers will cover telemedical costs.

When Telemedicine Makes Sense

Telemedicine can make sense when your patients come from far and wide, you offer unique expertise, or you're looking to add an ancillary service to your growing medical group. And with the reach of telehealth expanding, the more than 143,000 members of the American College of Physicians (ACP) offers advice for doctors considering connecting with their patients remotely.

Their take on telemedicine in 2015 includes challenges, cautions and benefits for primary care doctors adopting telehealth. The ACP position paper is worth a read — even if you’re still only thinking about expanding the reach of your medical group using this evolving technology.

ACP recommendations include:

  • Ensure your liability insurance covers telemedicine.
  • Ideally interact with established patients.
  • Provide the same standard of care as you would in person.
These are nothing new, but the ACP also addresses these challenges:
Don’t just offer telemedicine only because it is new and innovative. Or, as the ACP puts it: “ACP believes that physicians should use their professional judgment about whether the use of telemedicine is appropriate for a patient. Physicians should not compromise their ethical obligation to deliver clinically appropriate care for the sake of new technology adoption.”

Greater patient convenience (no need to travel) and consulting with people who might otherwise not receive care (no nearby specialty neurologist) are more gains of “e-visits,” David A. Asch, MD, MBA says. In a recent editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ‘The Hidden Economics of Telemedicine’, Dr. Asch notes that the technology could mean “potentially enormous” savings for physicians, hospitals, and other providers.

In reality, most physicians adopt telemedicine services to close care gaps for their patients, according to a FierceHealthIT article on the HIMSS Analytics’ 2014 Telemedicine Study. Remote consultations and around-the-clock care were top benefits according to the 406 people who responded.

“Telemedicine offers a great deal of promise in its ability to provide medical services to populations unable to obtain them,” according to HIMSS, which recently addressed common telemedicine issues and possible solutions. For example, what do you do when a patient’s browser or webcam is not compatible with your telemedicine technology?

Management of chronic conditions, monitoring prescription compliance, and “asynchronous” communication (think e-mail, where a specialist can evaluate lab results or images later vs. a telephone call, which requires both parties present at the same time) are more potential advantages of telemedicine, as we’ve reported before at Power Your Practice.

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