Imagine you aren’t feeling well. You call your doctor to get an appointment. You are lucky and are able to get an appointment within a week due to a cancellation. You have to schedule a couple hours off of work to travel to the doctor’s office and conduct the appointment. A week later you leave work and get to the doctor’s office at the scheduled time. It takes 30 minutes for you to be called back to an examination room by the nurse. He conducts a brief precursory check of your vitals and then says the doctor will be with you shortly. Another 20 minutes pass and the doctor comes into the room. She asks a few questions and you answer. After about 11 minutes she gives you a prescription and sends you on your way. You return to work late and are greeted by a stern glance from your boss. Hopefully the pills do the trick, because there is no way you want to do this again any time soon.
The story above details the typical American experience in seeing the doctor and is the reason why there is a major problem in America today.
People are voluntarily delaying essential healthcare.
A great number of people find getting healthcare difficult based on the time it takes to see a doctor. In fact, 33% of people report some type of problem in seeing their Primary Care Physician (PCP) and nearly 25% report issues with getting time away from work for doctor’s appointments. “I have to wait too long” even made the list of 5 Reasons People Don’t Like Their Doctor.
The result is an undue burden on the urgent care and emergency room systems, with 55% of those visits not being urgent or emergencies. Studies also show that 46% of the time these visits could have been handled by a PCP.
The American Medical Association goes on to state that an estimated 70% of all doctor’s visits could in fact be handled…over the telephone.
A hurdle to that however is that few patients are confident that the telephone is effective in diagnosis of their medical needs. However, when asked about video-conferencing, the majority of patients are at least somewhat likely to meet that way. Over 36 million Americans have utilized some type of telemedicine service because of the convenience and time savings. So how does telemedicine help solve some of these problems?
Physicians are tasked with seeing more patients.
It’s the sad truth. One of the most limited resources in the healthcare system is a physician’s time. Physicians are being tasked with seeing more patients. The net result is that the average time a patient spends with a doctor during a visit is 11 minutes, and the patient usually only gets 4 of those minutes to talk. The average telemedicine appointment last 15 minutes or more, and does not require the patient to spend additional time traveling to the doctor’s office or waiting in the waiting room.
Telemedicine is more convenient.
Over 25% of people report trouble getting time off of work to see a doctor. That is because if you include travel to and from the doctor’s office and the time spent waiting to actually see the doctor, that 11 minutes of face time may easily take up 90 minutes of a patient’s day. It may be difficult to get 90 minutes off of work, especially if repeat visits are required. However, taking a 15 minute break to have a video conference with a physician at your desk or on your phone is very easy.
Continuum of Care
In today’s world of bits and bytes, medical charts have gone from analog paper to digital electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs make telemedicine even more feasible, as any physician can access the digital records given they have the proper permissions. EHRs are also stored and protected according to federal HIPPA guidelines to assure privacy. This allows a patients records to easily be passed form a physician to a specialist or accessed for follow up appointments or questions after an initial appointment.
The idea of telemedicine has been around for some time, however it is poised to accelerate in acceptance today. The continued consumer acceptance of videoconferencing, increased access to teleconferencing applications through computers, tablets, and phones, as well as the federal emphasis on the privacy of EHRs and continued support of telemedicine programs in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are all strong indicators that telemedicine is indeed a major component of the future of healthcare.
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About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org