Key Considerations in Telemedicine: What Treating Physicians and Their Organizations Need to Note
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the practice of medicine and paved the way for a vast increase in the number of physicians using telemedicine to treat patients. While we tend to think of telemedicine as being a relatively new offering in the healthcare sphere, providing care across long distances has really been around since the beginning of medicine, according to Patrick O’Doherty, Vice President of Custom Physicians at ProAssurance.
“Look back at battlefield injuries,” he said. “When you envision a soldier on the phone with a medic — that was really the first instance of telemedicine. Subsequent wars further established the technological capabilities of providing care remotely and used telemedicine extensively.”
And decades before that, it was commonplace to run or ride a horse into town to fetch the local doctor for a sick family member at home. If the doctor could not make it to the patient’s home, they would send instructions or medicine back with the person who came to get them. “That, too, was healthcare across distance — what we refer to today as telemedicine.”
Radiology has used it for decades. Where the image is made and where it’s read and ultimately where it’s shared with the patient all take place in different areas. In fact, most radiologists today are not reading at a hospital, said O’Doherty.
In fact, there are some instances where there is benefit to separating the provider from the patient — in home health, for instance, where care may be cost prohibitive or where logistics make it nearly impossible for the patient.
“If an elderly diabetic patient in a rural setting must travel 60 miles to see a doctor in person, they’re less likely to seek the care they need,” said O’Doherty. “But if a provider can check on this patient over the internet and modify treatment based on how the patient appears on video, now there’s value to society and medicine. This is where we’re seeing the most of telemedicine’s utilization.”
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