Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The opinions expressed here are that of the authors and not Medical Economics.
Of the many reasons to pursue medicine, dealing with insurance companies and perfecting the skill of entering data into the EHR likely do not make the list. Instead, you will hear stories about family members who were sick, admiration for a parent who is a doctor, or a love of helping others.
As physicians, we work hard to build trust with our patients and that means we have to be available to spend the necessary time with them to ensure continuity of care— but our ability to do so is dwindling.
Doctors are spending more time on administrative tasks, such as filling out paperwork, playing phone tag, navigating federal and state mandates, and dealing with medication authorizations, than actually helping their patients. It’s estimated that doctors now spend just 27 percent of their time with patients.
It is hard to identify exactly when and why this change in doctor-patient relationships occurred, but I believe the use of technology in healthcare is a major influencing factor. We are trying to balance the new technologies thathelp us effectively care formore patients with actually being able to personally communicate with them.
Technology can and does make a difference in how we deliver care, but often it is designed to facilitate more patient encounters and lower costs rather than enabling us to understand the health problems facing our patients and help them find solutions. The major component that these technologies lack is the doctor-patient relationship.
Doctors understand what works and doesn’t work when implementing transformative solutions.
This is why I believe that doctors hold the key to disrupting the medical industry. We are at the front line of the industry, the ones providing the care, and the ones that understand what doctors need to effectively manage their practice and their relationships. We spend our lives analyzing problems—so why not translate those skills to developing doctor-friendly technology solutions?
I believe we can get back to the roots of the doctor-patient relationship by establishing a telehealth solution that maximizes a physician’s time. These platforms can be free to the physician, simple to implement, HIPAA-compliant, and easy for patients to use.
Telehealth gives doctors and patients the opportunity to stay connected between visits through conveniently scheduled video visits. This brings more regular interaction to the day-to-day topics of test results, prescription changes, treatment clarifications, and health updates—minimizing the idea of office visits as one-off interactions. Telehealth allows doctors to be proactive and continue the conversation with their patients by addressing their questions or concerns in real time, and not days or weeks later.
Telehealth also can deliver data in real-time—blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, for instance— through integrated medical devices that patients can use from home. However, much of this valuable data is sitting siloed in a patient’s hands, only being used to monitor a single outcome. By using telehealth connectivity solution, this idle data can be transferred electronically into an aggregate and clear report, giving doctors the ability to view the patient’s statistics as a whole and allowing them to focus their attention on the conversation.
Video visits can turn callbacks and follow-ups into billable time, allowing doctors to help more patients while generating revenue. Further, video visits create efficiencies by helping us address simpler needs of patients quickly, which allows more time to spend in the office with patients whose needs are more complex.
There’s never been a better time to integrate technology into the medical field. By promoting and adopting the right approach to telehealth, we can create an environment that puts the patients’ needs first.
Dr. Samant Virk is founder & CEO of MediSprout, a company focused on connecting doctors with their patients through innovative technology solutions. He is also a physician having practiced clinical medicine for almost 15 years, with a specialization in neurology and interventional spine.