AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Preparing for the New Reality of Telehealth

A little more than a decade ago, telestroke and teleneurology were words that where not even part of our language but today are synonymous with the delivery of remote life-saving treatment for stroke and other neurological maladies. Telemedicine has provided vast improvements in medical care for our nation’s troops and veterans who are deployed in remote areas across the country and around the world, and is now poised to expand to a much larger telehealth initiative which promises to bring virtual, routine medical care to the home, workplace and public facilities of millions of patients throughout the country. With this expansion, telehealth will not only change the method of delivery of healthcare but proposes to alter the dynamics of the traditional caregiver/patient relationship. Yesterday’s patients are today and tomorrows consumers.

A new study from consulting company Oliver Wyman titled “The Patient to Consumer Revolution,” is revealing how empowered-consumers and outside industry innovators are influencing important changes to a centuries-old healthcare delivery model. “Empowering the consumer is what’s toppled many markets,” says Tom Main, partner at Oliver Wyman and co-author of the report. Companies like Walgreen’s, CVS, Google and Apple are beginning to enter what was traditionally an industry driven market. These new influencers are consumer experienced and able to successfully initiate telemedical products and services to a more aware and influential consumer.

In order to adjust to the new reality of virtual care delivery; hospitals, physicians and healthcare professionals across the care giving spectrum will need to alter not only their hard technology skills but learn new methods of personal interaction with their patients. Practitioners accustomed to performing good bedside manners will need to add “laptop manners” to their set of skills.

Relating to patients in person requires a much different approach than interacting with them virtually. Randy Parker, CEO of MDLIVE, a Florida-based telehealth provider says, “There’s a whole comfort level and professionalism involved (in telehealth) that many doctors don’t get, there’s even a dress code, and a way you present yourself” in a video encounter.” The new skills are not yet taught in medical school and few practitioners have yet had the opportunity to develop and fine-tune them in practice.

Peter Antall, medical director of the Online Care Group, says “Online doctors face two unique challenges that they don’t encounter in the exam room. First, they should have a familiarization with the technology they’re using, in case the patient on the other end of the encounter isn’t tech-savvy and needs help. Second, they have to learn “how to evaluate patients without the ability to examine by touch. Developing these skills requires a physician to be open minded and willing to learn and grow.”

It could be safe to say that very few healthcare professionals envisioned the disruptive effects the arrival of the internet, social media, wearable devices and mobile technology would have on the delivery of healthcare in the 21st century.

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