AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Evolution / Revolution

After more than two decades in experimental and somewhat limited practice, telemedicine is poised to experience a revolution in use and acceptance by medical care providers and patients alike. The journey since its practical inception has been fraught with challenges, both in the tangible technical arena as well as the human/emotional one, and the pace to this point has been more accurately described as evolution as opposed to revolution.

Significant barriers remain to be removed from the telemedicine pathway to full acceptance as an innovative healthcare delivery model, but many of the once formidable obstacles are rapidly falling by the wayside. Paula Guy, CEO of the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, says “It’s not about the technology anymore, it’s about applying it… In the next few years, it will no longer be known as telehealth. It’s just going to be the way we do healthcare.” Still, the intangibles are lagging behind in the acceptance curve, the most predominant being the persistent concern for the effects of technology on redefining the doctor-patient relationship.

From the patient standpoint, the level of acceptance is gaining at a quicker pace than that of the doctors and their service provider associates. Greater access to specialized medicine, convenience factors, and the concern for rising healthcare costs have eased the reluctance of patients, who are now accepting lessened one-on-one contact with their care providers, although nobody is predicting this personal interaction will go away for good.

Physician’s reluctance is based in part on a good deal of research that indicates a clinician’s physical presence in the room, along with simple companionate personal consultation, has therapeutic value. There’s also a worry that without face-to-face access to the patient, the physician will miss something important or that over-enthusiasm for telemedicine services will deprive patients of the essential hands-on component of care.

To many, the advantages of telemedicine in terms of bolstering the quality and availability of enhanced medical care must be weighed against the potential harm that could result from patients not having in-person contact with their physicians. The real solution to overcoming this challenge is to discover an optimal intersection of technology and personal, hands on care. It remains just ahead in the evolutionary path of telemedicine, where it can enable a true revolution instead.


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