Fellow Physicians: Join the Telehealth Revolution

telemedicineIt is a frustrating time to be a physician. Primary care doctors, on average, see 20 to 30 patients a day, maybe more, back-to-back. Our time out of the exam room is filled with a flood administrative work, phone calls, hospital rounds, shooing away pharmaceutical reps.

It’s hard work. Physically and mentally. And practicing medicine is less rewarding these days: just struggling to see more and more patients in order to make a living, and providing more and more “reactive” care; feeling like you are always in a hurry. But that’s not really what medicine is:  remember in medical school, when it was all about listening to patients, talking with them, helping them become healthier, overall?

So, if you will, imagine this. Wake up in the morning. Turn on your computer, log in and see patients.  Really see patients. Talk with them about their immediate concern, address other topics, close some care gaps. Prescribe, diagnose, encode. All online. No overhead, no staff to manage. Just you and the patient. And, the best part: get paid right then and there, no rejected claims, no hassle. Feel good about practicing medicine again, and get some of your life back.  This is the promise of Telehealth and Telemedicine.

Now, think about how many more patients you can see and spend time with each day, without extending your hours or laboring over more paperwork. 10%? 30%? Those are very real figures. And added capacity and efficiency that the healthcare system definitely needs come 1/1/14.

Healthcare is becoming more consumer-driven and consumers are demanding new ways to access care. Remember when retail clinics were the new thing. We physicians felt that these provided fragmented and substandard care. But consumers wanted easy access for minor complaints, and these clinics fulfilled that need. Consumers are still looking for easy access to physicians but now telehealth can be the answer.

What’s more, with telehealth physicians and practices can actually manage chronic disease and coordinate care. This is critical for those groups and networks entering accountable care arrangements to make good on quality promises, and reap the rewards of bearing risk. An aging patient population needs much more upkeep and maintenance than a single doctor can manage on his or her own. Collaborating and coordinating care is now a reality.

To be clear, I don’t believe telehealth or telemedicine will replace all or even most in-person visits, not by a long shot. But, until now, nothing like this has even come close.  And with the rapid evolution of technology, who knows what we’ll see in our lifetime.

So, I invite you to join the telehealth conversation, and perhaps dive into a revolution. The future of medicine is here.

Peter Antall, MD
Medical Director
Online Care Group
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