Our Panel’s Thoughts on Telemedicine

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, many members of the medical community find themselves thrust headlong into the world of telemedicine. With patients no longer able or willing to visit their doctor’s office, practices are using the opportunity to try out telemedicine.

Reckner Healthcare Surveys was curious about what our Panel members were experiencing, so we sent out a survey to the group.  More than 1,000 Healthcare Professionals (HCP) responded, sharing their observations, opinions, and advice about telemedicine.

Infographic 5So, how is telemedicine being used? And, is it a game-changer or a necessary development?

Opinions varied widely, but there were several common threads expressed throughout the responses we received:

  1. Its usefulness depends upon specialty.
  2. It’s no substitute for a physical examination in many instances.
  3. It’s likely to be a larger part of medical practice going forward for certain fields and circumstances.

As expected, prior to Covid-19, the vast majority of patient interactions were conducted in person. Since then, that number has been cut by more than half, replaced by patient interactions by phone and video, which have increased 7 times and 15 times respectively.

Infographic 4As phone and video interactions became more prevalent, HCPs observed that patient interactions are generally shorter in length than in-person visits (61% shorter for telephone; 47% shorter for video). However, about 40% of those responding said both video and telephone visits were about the same length as in-person.

Regarding the future use of telemedicine, 75% of HCPs think the use of telemedicine will increase in the future, although 25% think it will go back to pre-pandemic rates.

Infographic 7

As for employing telemedicine in your practice, our Healthcare Panel offered both advice and caution, which typically fell into five categories:

 Use it appropriately

  • Usefulness depends upon specialty
  • Better for existing patients
  • Useful for follow-ups and refills
  • No substitute for a physical exam

Worth Trying

  • It’s a way to care for patients in today’s environment
  • Its use will certainly grow in the future
  • Some patients will need or demand it

Can be Helpful

  • Useful for rural areas, elderly patients, busy patients, and follow-up visits
  • Can be a more efficient way to “see” patients, depending on patient need/ visit requirements

Be Organized

  • The staff has to be engaged in preparing patients for each visit
  • Set patient expectations (e.g. set up required, payments, length of visit, what can and can’t be accomplished)
  • Use HIPAA compliant platform, ideally, one that connects with EMR and is easy for patients to use

Be Careful

  • Insurance reimbursement/documentation important
  • Diagnosis errors/malpractice issues
  • Patient’s acceptance
  • HIPAA compliance and data security

One final tip: The AMA has shared a useful guide for telemedicine in practice covering implementation, policies, coding, and other helpful resources. The guide can be found here.


6 thoughts on “Our Panel’s Thoughts on Telemedicine

  1. ANDREE HNATIUK

    I agree with all the observations having experienced the tele-visit with our own FP and my wife’s Pain specialist. It is we believe going to be the wave of the future.

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  2. Carole V Rousis

    I think tele-health will become more popular in the future but I still prefer to see my doctor in person. I just went today, his first day open. Safety was important. To me, I like the personalization of seeing my doctor face to face, even if it is through a mask and shield.

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  3. Timothy J Dunn

    The problem is patients don’t show up for their zoom or telephone appointment. It’s counterintuitive but when patients make an effort to go to an appointment they tend to keep it. When they don’t have to do anything but log onto a computer or answer a telephone call they don’t keep their scheduled appointments. My productivity has dropped more than half because of this phenomenon. I sure hope this is not the future of outpatient consults. I’ll need a second job.

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  4. Telemed is useful in many specialties, but, very tough in surgical physical exam, internal exams, etc, but is useful in many ways, excellet for radiology, like CT scan, MRIs, routine Xrays etc This is here to stay for good, nice we get accustomed to it, & take adavantage!

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  5. Glen Berger, M.D.

    During this COVID-19 pandemic telemedicine has provided a way to maintain care of patients without them needing to come to the office. It has its limitations. Things that require a hands on exam can not be done. It’s perfectly fine for f/u on psychiatric diagnoses (anxiety, depression, panic attacks, OCD, ADHD). Some dermatological problems can be handled via telemedicine. Testing (EKG, spirometry, urinalysis) can not be included. Patients can do lab work prior to a telehealth visit which is how I’m handling conditions that require lab monitoring.
    Since Medicare is covering telehealth visits due to the pandemic, it is not clear if it will once we are past it. Commercial plans tend to copy Medicare’s approach to reimbursement.
    It is unclear as to whether telehealth visits will be covered in the future once we get over the pandemic (due to having effective, safe vaccines).

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