The Benefits of Telemedicine
Jun 1, 2012
The national discussion about health care services has been an ongoing discourse for decades: how will American have access to health care, where and how will we visit our physicians, and how will we pay for it?
When I was growing up in the 1950s the health care distribution was simple: there were rural doctors (my wife's grandfather was a country physician who visited his patients in rural South Carolina) or those who lived in urban areas. Some doctors would make house calls, but in most circumstances you made an appointment to visit your physician at their office. Depending on the circumstances you could get an appointment the same day. I remember when my parents would telephone a doctor to talk to the physician about a medical situation.
Payment to the doctor was dependent on whether you had health coverage, paid in cash, or provided your physician with tradeable items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and other products in a rural area (yes, there was a barter system).
To those who own health plans, most through company-sponsored plans, the employer would usually pay the premiums for the employer and sometimes for their family or the employee would pay a portion of the premiums. Deductibles and co-insurance were low which meant that the insurance company would pay for most health services whether it was a physician visit or time spent in a hospital.
Physicians used to be professionals practicing medicine running a small business and serving their patients. Presently, most physicians work for large medical organizations, medical groups, or hospitals. The corporate bureaucracy is vast to handle medical plan paper work.
In the 21st Century, company-sponsored plans are reduced or, if offered, a greater percentage of health care premiums is absorbed by employees. Deductibles and co-insurance are often in the thousands of dollars before the insurance company pay benefits. Medicare plans, even with Medicare supplement plans, have deductibles and co-insurance. Your access to medical services is not any faster. On a fixed income, medical expenses become a greater percentage of your annual income.
The issue is not whether we want health coverage, the relevant question is: How will all of us have access to adequate health coverage and how will we pay for it?
Innovation, to take an idea and make it something that people want and is affordable, is why most of us own a computer, notebook, or notepad, have access to the Internet, smart phone, social media, and numerous other innovations we use every day. These ideas were unknown a few decades ago, but now we use these products and services without remembering that people had to create the idea and market it to businesses and consumers.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.
What are the usual issues people have with our current health care system?
Time to Get an Appointment
Limited Face-to-Face Time with the Doctor
Time in a Waiting Room
Requirement for an Office Visit for a Prescription Refill
Required Visits when Patient’s Believe it could have been Handled by Phone
Inability to Follow Up with the Doctor by Phone or Email for Additional Questions
Approximately 78% of all emergency room, urgent care and primary care visits can be handled over the phone for such illness as:
Colds, Flu, Sore Throat, Coughs, Nausea, Allergies,Headaches/Migraines, Heartburn, Urinary Tract Infections, Cuts/Scrapes, Strains/Sprains. Motion Sickness. Rashes/Burns, Insect Bites/Stings. Arthritis. Sinus Infections, Earaches, Fevers, Stomach Aches, and Second Opinions.
Features of telemedicine include:
No travel, no claims to file
Immediate physician care is available
Extended consultation with a doctor
Access is by telephone, internet, or internet/video
When employees receive diagnosis and treatment by phone or email, they don’t have to leave work.
The convenience of having a doctor on call, reachable from home, work, on vacation, late at night or early in the morning, will result in patients seeking treatment more often with quicker access to medical services.
For those on disability or long-term care, the time, stress, and cost of taking a person to the doctor's office, medical clinic or emergency room will be reduced.
Owning a plan through your company or owning an individual plan offers less stress and worry about having access to care services. People will be healthier with less stress because you have consulted the services of a doctor.
About The Author
Raymond Lavine enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school, was trained as a paratrooper, and then attached to the 82nd Airborne for state-side duty. Later assignments with the 173rd Airborne Brigade took him to Vietnam and then to administrative assignments.
A graduate of the Drucker-Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont University, Lavine became interested in the importance of long-term-care insurance. He has become a prominent voice as a proponent for people to understand the risks of neglecting to provide long-term-care coverage.