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Why Orthopedic Surgeons Can’t Resist Telemedicine

Posted by Dr. Glen McCracken, Jun 24, 2015

When we first started eVisit, one of the first specialists who approached us was an orthopedic surgeon.

This statement surprises many people when I share it. Their first reaction is often, how could orthopedic surgeons do appointments without touching or examining the wound in-person? What would a specialty that’s so hands-on want with telemedicine?

But the interest we got (and still get) from orthopedic surgeons is actually fairly straightforward. A majority of orthopedics’ post-op appointments with patients are simple check-ins to see how the wound is healing. Is it infected? Is it healing properly?

One of the surgeons we talked to said assessing a patient’s wound takes less than 30 seconds. All that’s needed is a clear visual to say either “it looks good!” or “I’m going to prescribe you an antibiotic.” Then they can answer the patient’s questions, make sure they’re fine otherwise, and send them on their way.

Besides the fact that these post-op appointments actually are well-suited for video, telemedicine helps orthopedic surgery in a few other key ways. Here are the biggest reasons why we’re seeing such a big interest in telemedicine among orthopedics.

  1. Telemedicine boosts compensation for orthopedics 

    There are a couple ways offering patient care via telemedicine helps orthopedics improve their compensation. Orthopedic surgeons are usually only compensated for their time in the OR. That means any time spent on post-op care is uncompensated. So, while it’s obviously important to maintain high-quality post-op care for patients, making follow-up appointments more efficient can help surgeons make more. Replacing an in-person patient visit (10-15 mins on average) with an online, video visit (average 3-5 minutes) is an effective way of doing just that.

    In addition, a telemedicine solution that has ePrescribe built-in lets you or your staff seamlessly order prescriptions for patients that need them. That means there’s very little paperwork or follow-up to be done after the appointment. Again, time saved.

    The other big way telemedicine boost revenue for orthopedic practices is with a convenience charge for video visits. We’ve found many patients are completely willing to pay a small fee for an online visit because it means they don’t have to travel, take time off work, or wait in the doctor’s office. They’re happy with the added convenience, and the orthopedic surgeon gets paid for time spent on post-op care. This is especially true after-hours.

  2. More convenient for patients

    This one’s pretty self-explanatory. With 64% of patients expressing an interest in telemedicine  and 97% expressing frustration with wait times at the doctor’s office, patients are looking for more convenient care. The last thing patients want to do is wait for an hour at a practice for a 10 minute check-up. Especially if they’re convalescing, or recently took time off work for surgery.

    Today’s modern patient wants better access to their doctor, including after work and on weekends.  The simple reality is that most of the time, patients just want a few questions answered. Patients don't know if they need to seek care in an Emergency Department or simply follow-up.

  1. Better patient care

    I can’t stress this enough – patients are less likely to skip an appointment or end up in urgent care or the ER with an infection when they have the option to do an online, video visit. Because an online visit can be done from home, at their convenience, it’s much easier for them to check-in with a question or a problem. That means, they’re more likely to go to their surgeon instead of going directly to the ER with an avoidable or non-urgent problem. And what surgeon wants to go to the hospital to see a patient that easily could have been followed up in the office?

    As a practicing ER doctor, this point is critical for me – in fact, it’s one of the main reasons I started eVisit. Patients all too often come into the ER with non-urgent problems because they can’t access their doctor. Providing orthopedics patients a quick and easy way to consult their doctor is way to address this problem, and improve the overall quality of orthopedics care.

Like orthopedics, there are many other specialties out there that are a great, if unexpected, fit for telemedicine visits. At eVisit, we have practices ranging from OB/GYN to Dermatology that are seeing excellent results. It’s just about focusing your telemedicine solution on the right types of appointments and patients, and then watching your practice and your patients benefit.

Wondering if telemedicine could work for your practice? Leave a question in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to provide suggestions or research for your specialty.

Topics: eVisit Blog Posts, orthopedics, surgeons, Telemedicine

Dr. Glen McCracken

About Dr. Glen McCracken

Dr. Glen McCracken is President of eVisit and a practicing ER physician with over 20 years of experience. You can connect with Glen on Linkedin.

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