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Why the Doctor-Patient Relationship Can Make or Break Telemedicine

Posted by Dr. Glen McCracken, Aug 27, 2015

Telemedicine might take place on computer screens, but it doesn't have to be impersonal.

This is what I try to explain to many of the doctors I talk to about telemedicine. Virtual visits can actually help us physicians maintain our relationships with patients who would otherwise go to an urgent care facility or retail clinic. Telemedicine allows us to keep in touch and be there for our patients in a way we can't when limited to the standard office visit, and patients crave that. I have found that patients deeply desire accessibility, and want to know they can depend on their primary care providers.

Here's the trick to telemedicine that's convenient but maintains quality of care - we have to break away from the typical telemedicine model.

All the other telemedicine companies that let patients connect with an unfamiliar on-call physician, are losing the relationship factor. But that trust and knowledge is crucial to successful telemedicine. The consumer-directed telemedicine model does provide quick, convenient care, but in the long run it isn't effective for patients or care providers. It breaks down the continuity of care. My years practicing medicine have taught me that connecting with your patient base is the most important aspect of providing effective care and keeping patients healthy.

Telemedicine is on the upswing and garnering incredible interest from patients, but it's still an emerging technology for widespread patient adoption. This means that even patients who are interested in trying it out, might have some concerns with security or with getting the technology all set-up. The best way to guide them through? Present a familiar face on the other side of that screen. When you help your existing patients access care through telemedicine, you're strengthening your patients' trust in you and providing convenient treatment. Using telemedicine with your patient base is a win-win.

Treating a patient goes beyond a written prescription. Any physician can do that, but you know your patient base. Not only are you familiar with patients' medical histories, but you also know how your patients' lifestyles will affect their treatment adherence. When patients don't receive care from a physician who knows their needs, that treatment may not work as well--or even lead to complications.

Additionally, when you use telemedicine in your practice, you don't need to worry about vital health information being exposed because your patients are using an outside telehealth platform. The medical industry is one of the largest targets for data theft. By offering telemedicine to your patients, you're keeping medical data in-office, as opposed to creating more opportunities for personal health information to be stolen or abused. Safety concerns can also sometimes prevent patients from sharing their full medical history or symptom list with a virtual doctor they don't know. Again, this puts patients at greater risk of complications or substandard care.

Other health trends like retail clinics and urgent care facilities already make it hard to maintain continuity of care. It's up to patients to remember their treatments and any other notes these clinics may provide, since the information often isn't accessible to primary care providers. Telemedicine beats retail clinics to the punch by offering the most convenient care possible, from the patient's own doctor. From here, you can engage your patients in their care, developing effective treatment and prevention plans. There's no worry about transferring records or missing a follow-up. If your patients have concerns about their treatment, they can connect with you, and you'll grow your understanding of what works for your patients.

I've often said that the standard telemedicine model just can't compare with personal, comprehensive virtual care from a patient's own doctor. The telemedicine industry as a whole benefits from a continuity model, too. When you encourage your patients to receive care via telemedicine, you're helping to prove telemedicine is worth an investment. Implementing new technology is much easier when patients are working with a physician they trust, and in turn, everyone reaps the benefits.

 

Topics: eVisit Blog Posts, continuity of care, digital health, doctor-patient relationship, EHR, engagement, HIT, Patient Engagement, remote, remote care, retail clinics, Telemedicine, urgent care, virtual visits

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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