Technology has the power to connect, but also the power to divide, as physicians well know.
One of the biggest barriers now in the physician-patient relationship lies in doctors’ constant typing, clicking, and touching screens to get every detail of a visit documented. Many bemoan their lot as glorified EHR data-entry clerks, wasting their medical knowledge.
And then there’s telemedicine, a technology that promotes well-being by connecting physicians with patients even though they are in different locations. Some would call it “good” screen time vs. the EHR-fueled distraction that exists in an exam room.
Telemedicine is a tremendous tool to increase access to much-needed medical advice and intervention for rural patients, those with transportation issues, or any patient confronting a geographical obstacle to getting in front of a healthcare professional.
But I also worry about its misuse. I worry that telemedicine used as a tool to increase the quantity of patient visits will lead to the detriment of the quality of visits. I worry that in a hurry to meet millennials where they live—in their phones—practices and physicians will rush into the decision to implement e-visits whenever and wherever a patient wants in order to keep up with the times.
Today’s tech-enabled world gives us the power to demand immediacy and for things to revolve around our schedules: from food delivery to when we watch certain television shows. But patients shouldn’t dictate the process of a thorough examination for medical treatment due to their desires or convenience.
Telemedicine isn’t right for all practices either. Like any other evolving tech tool, jumping in too quickly can be costly for both the physician and practice.
In this issue, you’ll find information on how to set up a telemedicine program the right way—taking into account the long-term goals of your practice vs. just implementing it because other practices are doing so. We put this information together to help you separate the sales pitches from the true value of telemedicine.
In an era of tech-enabled patients and sometimes tech-encumbered physicians, there has to be a balance. Physicians know when a problem can be diagnosed on a hand-held screen and when something requires the physical touch and interaction with a physician in an office.
In the right hands, telemedicine can complement a physician’s mission to improve well-being. In the wrong circumstances, it can actually put lives in danger. So before using technology to improve patient connectivity, be cautious.
Keith L. Martin is editorial director for Medical Economics. Do you see telemedicine as more of a benefit or a detriment to healthcare? Tell us at [email protected].