It seems there’s nothing we can’t do remotely these days. You might hesitate to visit a healthcare provider the same way you conduct a conference call, but it’s happening more and more. Call it remote healthcare, telemedicine, or telehealth but it’s growing rapidly.
It actually began in the 1950s, but in the age of tablets and mobile phones, it works more smoothly than ever. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine services increased 25 percent from 2015-2017.
Advantages of Remote Healthcare
The Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare published a 2016 study of patients receiving ongoing care after a heart failure event. They found that the availability of telemedicine measurably improved these patients’ quality of life.
Many of my patients prefer this method of interaction because it is more convenient and private, and it saves time and money. It also removes the chance of being exposed to other, potentially contagious patients.
For providers, telemedicine improves office efficiency, reduces the number of missed and cancelled appointments, and improves patient follow-through. I can keep an eye on patients via video, look at their medical records on my smartphone, study their X-rays and CT scans anytime, anywhere, and complete many other patient care tasks.
Use Remote Healthcare When Appropriate
In addition to using telemedicine for integrative medicine visits, it has also proven to be very helpful with:
- Follow-up visits
- Chronic disease management
- Post-hospitalization care
- Preventive care support
- Assisted living center support
It cannot yet substitute for a full, routine physical exam. And naturally, there will be times when you need a test or blood work. (Someday we may be able to do those things remotely, too!)
Another drawback is the occasional electronic glitch, such as power loss or outdated software on your end or the provider’s. Of course, some people simply do not feel as comfortable with technology. They may worry that it won’t work correctly or not know how to fix a technical issue if one arises.
Take Charge of Your Health
I have found one of the great benefits of telemedicine is patient engagement. With the wide variety of mobile health apps and medical devices available today, many of my patients proactively monitor their health. Home-use devices can take vitals, diagnose ear infections, monitor glucose levels, and measure blood pressure. As with mind-sharpening activity choices, information from these devices can help patients choose behaviors to improve their health, as well as provide the data I need to make a diagnosis without an office visit.
Telemedicine can also make it less taxing to stay healthy. Today’s connected ECGs, for example, can send real-time updates via the patient’s smartphone, delivering constant updates to their doctor that are recorded for later analysis. Doctors are even implanting monitors—including replacement hips and knees that have sensors built in—that can measure pressure, blood flow, and more, all in real-time without any action on the patient’s part.
A Cost Solution
Health spending totaled $74.6 billion in 1970; in 2016, it was more than $3.3 trillion. This growth outstripped inflation by 9-12% each year, accounting for an increasing percentage of GDP, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Telemedicine has the power to tame this unsustainable spending. It could reduce unnecessary ER visits and make typical doctor visits more efficient. But as the technology improves and telemedicine becomes the norm, there will nonetheless always be a place for in-person care in my practice. Sometimes, we just need to sit down for a face-to-face talk.
Please feel free to contact me to schedule a telemedicine consultation or office consultation at our Integrative Medical Center in Metamora, Indiana. I will be glad to help you.