Telemedicine has been around, well, since the telephone. But the definition of telemedicine is broadening to include any electronic interaction between patient and doctor. For the first time, doctors in 22 states receive compensation for telemedicine consults. We asked doctors what they thought of the changes.
Overall, 71 percent of doctors say they would participate in telemedicine with their patients if they received compensation. Only 29 percent said they wouldn’t use phone, email, or video means of communication.
Doctors Support Telemedicine
While the majority of doctors support telemedicine, all of them had caveats for proper use. One family practitioner listed where it is most helpful:
- For remote patients to improve care and save the patient time and money
- To help send patients to the proper medical facility such as urgent care centers over emergency departments
- To help abate the physician shortage by quickly and efficiently using doctor’s time
- Doctors are typically paid $30 for a 10-minute consult
We even heard from physicians who are currently working through telemedicine. One geriatric physician, who works part-time via an online telemedicine network, wrote, “Patients can show rash, throat or any other snaps of their ailment. We can write prescriptions except narcotics and psychiatric meds. My network has over 65,000 US doctors now.”
Physicians Against Telemedicine
Many doctors voiced concerns about missed diagnoses, further straining doctor/patient relationships and the increased likelihood of lawsuits.
A nephrologist stated, ”Have good tele-malpractice insurance, the state medical boards love to sue for tele-prescriptions that are devoid of face-to-face evaluations.”
“The greatest foe is not necessarily telemedicine, but its attendant laws (or lack thereof),” wrote a psychiatrist. “The legal system moves glacially compared with technology, for many years to come, a jury will not be kind to the physician who makes a mistake over Facetime.”
Patients Demand Telemedicine
Many doctors cited rural patients and patients with chronic but manageable disease as perfect candidates for telemedicine. A neurologist noted that population changes could spark increased requests. “As the elderly patients who aren’t tech savvy age out of the system, and younger patients are used to communicating with each other in these ways replace them, they are going to demand telemedicine,” he wrote.
Is it Really a Big Deal?
Many doctors wrote that telemedicine has been happening for years with few problems. A cash-only doctor wrote, “Physicians have been doing telemedicine for years- all those phone triages are telemedicine. It’s all about knowing when it’s appropriate and when a patient needs to be seen.”
While most doctors support telemedicine, do you? As a physician, have you tried it or are you waiting for reimbursements to begin in your state? Would you even have a nurse practitioner or physicians’ assistant handle telemedicine on your behalf? There is an active discussion on SERMO, if you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join us.