By Karin Krisher
Maybe virtual care isn’t a topic you approach often.
Maybe that’s because of your own thoughts on the doctor/patient relationship, or maybe it’s because you feel your patients won’t be receptive. Whatever the reason, virtual diagnoses and treatments are an up-and-coming phenomena of which you, and your patients, should be aware.
Many insurance companies, including Aetna and Cigna, have made the leap to cover telemedicine. Many patients are searching for an economically sound solution for their health care issues. Many doctors are responding by taking their practices to the web. What can you do?
Simply discussing the possibility of virtual care with your patients will give you a better gauge for telemedicine’s potential.
It may seem counterintuitive at first—after all, isn’t the point of working in a practice that it allows you to develop a relationship with your patients that gives you better, personal knowledge to respond to their medical needs?
But in a changing global communication environment, that relationship can be developed over a vast space. Proximity shouldn’t dictate our ability to give and receive information. Further, doctors enjoy the ability to open up their schedules for appointments that require face-to-face examinations, and patients get the same freedom. The cost is also less for both parties.
Writes Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News, “One major obstacle has remained, however: Many state medical boards make it difficult for doctors to practice telemedicine, especially interstate care, by requiring a prior doctor-patient relationship, sometimes involving a prior medical exam.”
This stipulation could be reassuring to your patients, though, and isn’t necessarily a negative concept to hold onto for a moment as we ease our way into this new era of medicine. After we become comfortable with the idea, and telemedicine is a more widespread practice, this stipulation will likely fall to the wayside, giving way to a world in which your patients can choose their care from a wider range of practitioners, and you can expand your clientele to include more patients concerned with your specialty.
Whatever your feeling on the changing medical communication landscape, your patients should know that the option exists. Ask them for their opinion and their concerns to further your understanding of patient desires, and share your opinion and concerns with us-- in a comment!