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7 telemedicine myths debunked


The market for telemedicine is big and growing, yet despite the growth in telemedicine, many physicians resist it.




The market for telemedicine is big and growing.

By the end of the year, reckons BCC Research, remote monitoring and telemedicine applications should total $27.3 billion globally, double what it was in 2011.

Yet despite the growth in telemedicine, many physicians resist it. This is partially because of misconceptions about telemedicine that have developed over the years, in particular those around complexity and regulation. There also is a fair amount of inertia that comes with adopting something new.

While we can't stop fear of the new, we can debunk some of the myths that have developed around telemedicine.



Myth #7: Telemedicine is too complex.

Like most things, telemedicine can be made complex and overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be.

At root, telemedicine is no different than the remote communications tools that most doctors use every day at home. You share images and video, exchange notes and videoconference with people on your computer or smartphone with tools such as Skype. This is the essence of telemedicine, too—it doesn’t have to be more complex than that.

Yes, there are extra layers of consideration. Unsecure connections won’t do, and good archiving and privacy are important for regulatory reasons. But fundamentally, telemedicine is just an application of technology most of us already use.

The telemedicine features that patients most want, according to research by McKinsey & Company, are simple technological functions like online appointment scheduling and being able to remotely connect with a physician for answers to basic questions. This does not require overly-complex technology.




Myth #6: You must do a physical exam.

Many physicians argue that physical exams are necessary for quality care. This certainly is true for some situations, but it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Physicians already deliver medical advice via telephone, and telemedicine just expands on that practice.

For many minor but urgent conditions, a patient’s medical history and reported symptoms are all that are needed for diagnosis. Further, telemedicine can serve as a more convenient follow-up or post-op option for check-ins that don’t require a physical exam.




Myth #5: Compensation is a problem.

Actually, telemedicine improves the bottom line for most medical practices. It can reduce appointment cancellations, improve patient flow, monetize after-hour consultations, attract new patients and help retain existing patients, as outlined in a recent blog post by medical videoconferencing firm

More to the point, recent state legislation has made it easier for medical practices in many states to seek reimbursement for telemedicine services. Such “parity laws” currently exist in 24 states and are pending in several more. The days of telemedicine compensation issues are past.




Myth #4: It doesn’t work with electronic health records (EHRs).

Some telemedicine solutions that aren’t specifically built for healthcare can struggle with EHR integration. Since EHRs now are a central part of almost every medical practice, however, the vast majority of telemedicine options now either directly interface with EHRs or can be exported into a physician’s EHR system.




Myth #3: Telemedicine costs too much

Just like the myth about complexity, telemedicine can cost a lot if you let it. It need not be expensive, however.

For instance, offering virtual visits for routine check-ups or appointment follow-up is no different than talking with family members over Apple’s FaceTime. All that is needed is a computer with a web camera, along with secure real-time communications software that can be purchased online as a cloud service.

Not all telemedicine requires telesurgery precision and a specialized kit. Most telemedicine is a lot more mundane—and affordable.




Myth #2: Telemedicine is not secure.

Some consumer-grade video conferencing solutions such as Skype are inappropriate for the privacy and security requirements of telemedicine. If banks can share financial information, however, you know there is a way to make telemedicine secure.

There are many ways to offer secure telemedicine, in fact. For instance, the aforementioned video chat provider uses the same end-to-end encryption that bank web sites employ.

Many HIPAA-compliant options exist, so security is a particularly minor telemedicine concern.





Myth #1: Patients won’t use it.

Actually, patients prefer telemedicine.

Videoconferencing with a physician is preferred by 60% of patients under the age of 34, according to a telehealth report put out by last year. Among Baby Boomers, more than half want to use technology such as telemedicine to keep themselves healthy, a Georgetown University study showed.

With roughly 97% of patients frustrated by hospital wait times, according to a 2015 survey, telemedicine and virtual appointments are a compelling option for most people seeking medical care. Three quarters of patients who have not used telemedicine previously are interested in using it instead of an in-person medical appointment, the survey found, and 67% said that telemedicine “somewhat” or “significantly” increases the satisfaction they have with their medical care.

So even if you have an aversion to the new, your patients will thank you for launching a telemedicine initiative. Telemedicine can be secure, economical, efficient, and can improve satisfaction with your medical practice. Don’t let the myths around telemedicine dissuade you.

Are there any other possible myths holding you and your practice back from implementing telemedicine?  If so, what are you worried about?



Peter Scott is a journalist and editor who has been covering healthcare, business and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. You can contact him at

JT Ripton is a freelance healthcare, technology and business writer out of Tampa. He loves to write to inform, educate and provoke minds. Follow him on twitter @JTRipton.

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