Sunday, September 13, 2015

How to Connect: Large Physician Group Makes a Call on Telemedicine



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 telehealth’s reach expanding, the 143,000+ member strong American College of Physicians offers advice for doctors considering connecting with 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:
* Provider difficulties getting multiple licenses across state lines
* Big questions about how insurers will pay for telehealth* Telemedicine still lacks a standard definition

Don’t just offer telemedicine because it’s cool. 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.”

Patient using patient portal

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 an editorial ‘The Hidden Economics of Telemedicine’, Dr. Asch adds 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.

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