The benefits and drawbacks of telemedicine are often specific to each provider and each practice, but there are some common, cross-specialty considerations.
In this post, the third in our series on telehealth and telemedicine, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of bringing telemedicine capabilities to your practice. Click here to read the first post in the series, on how to get started in telemedicine, and click here to read the second, which addresses which specialties are best suited for telemedicine.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Greater Convenience: Patients don’t like waiting rooms – it’s a fact. Using telemedicine can help cut the time you spend waiting for patients and the time patients spend waiting for care. By cutting the time patients spend driving to appointments, waiting to be seen, and waiting for consultations, you, your staff and your patients will be much happier – and you’ll get higher scores in patient satisfaction.
More Cost-Efficiency: Telemedicine can reduce costs for your practice or facility and your patient. Patients can spend less time away from work, and you can maximize your time and efficiency.
Increased Access to Specialist Consults: By using telemedicine, your practice can immediately extend its access to specialist consult services. This is a great way for small hospitals and practices to outsource certain treatments and provide specialist services without hiring new physicians.
Easier Engagement and Follow-Up: By providing more, better and easier access to health services, patients can interact with their doctors and providers more frequently and conveniently. Telemedicine and telehealth make follow-up and medication management much easier. Providers can check with their patients between visits and ensure they’re following their care plan. By providing a more user-friendly pathway to connect providers to patients, you can improve patient satisfaction and patient outcomes.
Drawbacks to Consider
Fewer In-Person Interactions: Telemedicine isn’t appropriate for every condition. Certain conditions require an inpatient visit to properly treat and diagnose them. Even for those that don’t, interacting with your patient face-to-face has its benefits. Some patients simply respond better to a physician’s presence. It’s easier to misdiagnose and inadequately assess patients when you can’t see them. Verbal instructions and reminders can more easily fall through the cracks too, even if they’re documented in the patient’s records.
Continuity of Care Can Be Affected: Reduced continuity is a concern for consumer-facing services. Any service that provides on-demand consults with physicians or replaces visits to a patient’s primary care physician jeopardizes continuity and keeps patients from building strong relationships with their provider.
Costs of Technical Training and Equipment: Like any new technology, telemedicine requires resources and training. In addition to the cost of telemedicine technology, nurses, clinicians and staff will all need training to use any new telemedicine services.
Reimbursement Rules and Legislation Often Change: Each year, CMS and private insurers update their billing practices. In addition, Medicaid policies vary by state, and many states have specific laws regarding telehealth practice and billing. To learn more about your state’s laws and regulations, check out the ATA State Policy Resource Center or the Center for Connected Health Policy’s tracking of state telehealth policies.
If you’re considering adopting telemedicine aspects in your practice, it’s best to plan ahead and consider all the issues – good and bad – that you’ll need to address, including any extra resources you’ll want to add first. Next week, we’ll take a look at some specific ways you can begin building your telemedicine offerings, as well as some best practices to consider as you do so.