Telehealth debate involves cost, access to care, doctor-patient relationship
Key stakeholders stated the use of telehealth must be safe, lower cost, preserve access and preserve the doctor-patient relationship, at the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety’s roundtable event on the topic in Washington.
“I believe that people want to see more telehealth options and that it can be safe, secure and allow patients to monitor themselves, [such as] within diabetes,” Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) said at the event.
Utilizing telehealth, patients have the opportunity to access health care efficiently, at a convenient time and through a medium that works for them, she added.
“With barriers to care such as geography and transportation, why not allow video conferences?” Matsui asked.
Price transparency within the drug industry was also an important topic for the lawmaker panelists.
“[Telehealth] can lower costs and preserve access to quality of medicine,” according to Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD, (R-La.).
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), repeated the sentiment: “The most significant and immediate impact would be drug pricing. I ... want to see us have competition.”
Former AOA President David Cockrell, OD, of Cockrell Eyecare Center in Oklahoma, added that affordability is one of the biggest hindrances to health care. While Obamacare increased access to care, it was not affordable, he added.
Peter Menziuso, president of Johnson & Johnson Vision North America and co-chair of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, said telehealth can increase access to care, lower costs and even improve health outcomes in some cases.
“There are places where we are absolutely aligned on the benefits of telehealth but there are also more conversations we need to have where there are differences,” Menziuso said.
He said telehealth is working within behavioral health in rural cities, school nurses are using it for illnesses in children to prevent pediatric office visits, and those with tuberculosis are demonstrating medication compliance, to name a few examples.
“We know it has remarkable potential and can empower patients,” he added.
“Like all technology, it must be used in a prudent way, and we need to make sure patient health is never compromised for cost or convenience,” Menziuso said. “Patient eye health and safety are a must.”
The goal of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety is to be a leading voice for patient health and safety and is made up of leaders and innovators in the eye care industry, according to a press release from the group.
The five key principles guiding the alliance are:
- preserving the doctor-patient relationship;
- continually advancing health care technology as health and safety are prioritized;
- ensuring the contact lens prescription is honored as it is written by the provider;
- ensuring that regulatory framework promotes patient health and safety and is enforced; and
- serving as a source for policymakers and the public, offering information that is useful to protect patients from unnecessary harm.
Menziuso said the alliance is starting to see challenges within the space of telehealth and patient safety.
“In some instances, convenience is at the cost of quality of care,” Menziuso said.
For example, some online contact lens sellers do not require a valid contact lens prescription, he said. Other sites encourage patients to skip a comprehensive eye exam.
“Certain states have proposed removing the provider out of the eye health equation and potentially putting eye health and safety at risk,” he continued. “While telehealth can increase access, it does not replace in-person care.
“It’s so important to have these conversations today, and as we think about telehealth improving patient outcomes and create solutions, we must keep the doctor-patient relationship at the center of care,” he concluded. – by Abigail Sutton
Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety. Evolution of telehealth: Patient awareness and education. Washington. September 27, 2018. Accessed via webcast.