1. WHAT IS TELEMEDICINE, AND WHY IS SO IMPORTANT IN THIS CURRENT DAY AND AGE?
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide clinical health care remotely.
Today, we have one physician per 325 patients in the US.
Medical schools provide about 18,938 new graduates who enter the workforce every year, according to the latest AMA statistics.
The US grows at a rate of 3.0 per 1,000 people per year (975k new patients every year).
As you can see, it will be impossible to keep up the pace of our growth as a country and still deliver good quality care that can reach everyone.
Telemedicine is the only viable solution in solving this problem. It will provide quality care while expanding our reach at all levels: outpatient and inpatient areas.
So, whether accepted or not, Telemedicine is the future of medicine, and it is here to stay.
2. WHAT CAN YOU DO NOWADAYS WITH TELEMEDICINE?
Telemedicine applies to all sectors: treating direct to consumer, helping practices increase their reach to patients, monitoring chronic disease thereby preventing future hospitalizations and even treating patients in the hospital in an acute setting.
It could be as simple as a phone call or HIPAA-compliant video communication to your doctor to as sophisticated as being able to examine and listen to heart, abdominal and lung sounds remotely, allowing to start lifesaving treatment right away.
3. HOW WE COULD BENEFIT FROM TELEMEDICINE?
Benefits are endless; Here is a sampling:
1. A doctor (in private practice, nursing homes or ALFs) can monitor patients remotely and receive alerts when something is wrong, decreasing the possibility of a patient to go to the ER or being hospitalized.
2. The same doctor in practice can examine patients while away using a telemedicine teleconsultation portal back in the office, NH or ALF. This will give doctors more control of their time and quality of life while still delivering non-emergent care to their patients.
3. A patient can connect with a qualified board-certified physician from home via a HIPAA-compliant video conference to ask questions or even be directed how to perform a non-urgent medical exam from the comfort of home and can finally receive treatment in a timely fashion. No more long waits to get an appointment (american average time: 1-2 w eeks to see y our doctor), waiting (average american waiting times: 2 hours) to finally see your doctor (average time doctors spend with a patient: 7.5 minutes), and spending the whole day for just a flu or a cold that would have taken just minutes to take care of.
4. A patient is able, via a travel kit (equipped with peripherics), to go anywhere in the world and be examined, advised and eventually treated by her/his own primary care physician in the US.
5. Patients can overcome distance barriers and improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.
6. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.
4. WHAT ARE THEIR LIMITATIONS?
Today we live in a unique era, more and more people are familiar with the use of technology and less afraid to use it.
In this current era, telemedicine has kept pace with technology, allowing us to do 90% of what we normally do on a face-to-face real physical encounter through telemedicine. The only thing we cannot do currently is “palpate a patient,” which is usually done by the medical aid (nurse, MA, PA, etc.) during the telemedicine encounter.
5. DO YOU THINK TELEMEDICINE WILL REPLACE DOCTORS IN THE FUTURE?
Definitely not, telemedicine is a very powerful tool to empower patients and increase the doctor’s reach. More than a replacement, I see it as a complement to medicine.
We probably will be able to do more each year as technology advances.
For example, the use of augmented and virtual reality might allow doctors to palpate patients remotely in the decades to come.
6. YOU DON’T THINK PATIENTS WILL PREFER TO SEE A DOCTOR IN THE OFFICE OR HOSPITAL RATHER THAN BE SEEN VIA VIDEO AND A ROBOT OR DEVICES?
I do not think so.
We live in a pretty hectic society and, as we discussed earlier, more people are becoming increasingly familiar with technology and less afraid of it.
You have seen the numbers! It is impossible for the current amount of physicians in the workforce to reach every single patient. We need help and that help is coming in the shape of telemedicine and telehealth.
Patients today will face the reality of not being seen at all for several weeks or months while their condition worsens, or they can be seen by a highly qualified doctor in minutes via telemedicine in which the doctor can diagnose and implement treatment right away. What would you do?
There is a significant amount of evidence documenting the fact that telemedicine works and saves lives. The population will become more educated and understand that telemedicine is here to help!
People will also become more aware when it is beneficial to use telemedicine and of its limitations.
7. IS TELEMEDICINE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE?
That’s a great question because, in fact, telemedicine is less expensive and more effective.
You are able to save time and money, and travel expenses. Doctors are happier because they can work from their offices, home or any part of the world.
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