SAN DIEGO – Just about every argument a primary care physician can make for not using telemedicine is “bunk,” according to a presentation at the ACP Internal Medicine Meeting.
“The first thing I hear is that ‘My patients don’t really want it.’ I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong,” Judd E. Hollander, MD, department of emergency medicine, Jefferson Health, Philadelphia, said. “The second thing I hear, ‘It’s not as good as an in-person visit.’ Most of the time, you’re using the wrong comparator.”
Hollander, whose employer uses telemedicine, said that even a potential downside to adopting the technology, such as not being reimbursed, has benefits long-term.
“We will lose some money now, we know that, because we’re giving up fee-for-service revenue now, but in a couple of years, when the game changes, we will be better prepared.”
The argument that telemedicine limits the clinicians’ ability to treat a patient effectively is not valid, Hollander said, relaying a colleague’s experiences about treating patients with asthma to make the point. This co-worker, according to Hollander, realized that before telemedicine, he was calling many of his patients, rather than seeing them in the office, which hindered his ability to see how the patient looked. Telemedicine gave the colleague a chance to talk to the patient and see them at the same time.
Hollander also said more sophisticated telemedicine can go a step further, recording things like temperature, pollen counts, and other factors where the patient lives that could impact a patient with asthma — data that wouldn’t necessarily be available when the patient comes into the office.
Telemedicine is worth its investment in other ways, Hollander told Healio Family Medicine.
“It doesn’t cost a lot of money, and you’re going to have a lot of time because people are going to stop coming through the doors ... If you’re a 35-year-old doctor, you better figure this out or you are not going to grow your practice. Telemedicine is a growth and sustainability strategy.”
Patients benefit from telemedicine too, he said, by communicating via video with family members who cannot make it to the hospital. They can also potentially save money and time by not making unnecessary trips to a doctor.
Referencing a recent survey of nearly 4,000 patients that indicated that it was more important for them to see a doctor immediately than to see their regular physician. By using apps, videoconferencing and other mechanisms, telemedicine marries these two patient demands together.
In a separate survey, Hollander said, Jefferson Health asked patients 2 weeks after using some form of telemedicine to describe their experience.
“Unbelievable patient satisfaction numbers,” he said of the results. – by Janel Miller
Hollander, JE. Session MTP 103. "Telemedicine Use in Providing Quality Care". Presented at: ACP Internal Medicine Meeting; March 29-April 1, 2017; San Diego.
Disclosure: Hollander reports research grants from Alere, Roche, Siemens and Trinity and receiving honoraria from Janssen.