Texas resident Amber Young, who was recently diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, is one of many patients who has received professional diagnoses and treatments without ever stepping foot in a doctor's office.
"I was as suspicious as anyone about getting treated over the computer," Young told Kaiser Health News after she spoke with a doctor via instant message and over the phone. "But, I could not have been happier with the service."
Despite the cost benefits of these telemedicine initiatives, doctors do need to guarantee that technology is sufficient for them to properly communicate with patients, in addition to making sure they have enough time in their day to properly meet with patients over the phone or computer. Of course, the more doctors use health IT throughout their practices, the more time they will be able to channel away from administrative practices and toward direct meetings with patients.
Healthcare professionals also need to be careful about which patients they use telemedicine initiatives with. Studies have shown that patients want their doctors to show concern for them, which is why some have questioned the potentially impersonal nature of a physician bringing in a laptop or tablet into an examination room during an appointment. Telemedicine may need to be reserved for patients who opt into such a program or those who have been with a particular doctor for a longer period of time.
Physicians may also need to contend with HIPAA violations if they are not careful about how they integrate telemedicine into their treatment techniques, especially if a doctor has never before met with a patient face-to-face. Some states frown upon this practice, so individual practices may want to work with a legal nurse consultant to ensure compliance with all government provisions while still treating patients in the best ways possible.