Telemedicine Myths and the Truth Behind Them - Smart Vision Labs

Telemedicine: Myths and the Truth Behind Them 

How is telemedicine impacting your business? Whether you own one store or are the vice-president of a chain of stores, telemedicine can make a positive impact in several areas from increased customer satisfaction to an overall increase in revenue.

The field of telemedicine has been growing at exponential rates, in a direct correlation with the advances in technology. While this has been considered one of the biggest health trends within the past five years, there are several key elements that distinguish it from a temporary upgrade to a permanent player.

While most changes within a system originate from the top down, (with industry leaders creating a new environment) telemedicine is more of a product of the people than other types of trends. And it all starts with the defining presence of telemedicine.

Telemedicine Myths and Facts - Smart Vision labs

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. The keyword is “remote.” No longer do the health care provider and patient need to be in the same room or even in the same country. This is possible through the technology for live video interactions.

While it is the electronic advances that make this possible, it is the consumers who make this profitable (and not only in terms of dollars). Telemedicine is almost an extension of what people already know and accept. A majority of the population is familiar with video chat apps like Skype or Facetime. Most people have easy access to a computer or other mobile device. Technology-based telemedicine is, therefore, a smooth transition from apps that have every day use to ones that become more relevant to personal health care.

Who would have thought that an internet connection would literally upend this entire industry?

And who would have thought that consumers would not only actively use this technology but would find it convenient, cost-effective, and worthy to discuss via social media sites?

How is telemedicine impacting your business? If you’re still not sure about the possibilities and profitability, let’s review some myths and the truths behind them.

Myths about Telemedicine

If you’re not already one of the businesses using telemedicine to support your employees and bolster your revenue, why aren’t you? Is it due to misconceptions? Or just a lack of time?

Whenever a new technology or way of doing things appears, in any field, it tends to be met with skepticism. This is especially true when the new service or method goes in a different direction than the old way, rather than just improving on something that is already established. While asking questions is always a good thing, doing your own investigation for the answers is even better.

Maybe you’re researching telemedicine for yourself right now?

A concern regarding telemedicine is that it’s just a fad, rather than the next big advancement in the field. Doctors who have been practicing for decades aren’t jumping at the prospect of devoting their valuable time to learning technologies which might not be around in a few years’ time. Understandably so. These doctors have seen many health fads come and go over their careers.

However, many of the reasons both health care and business professionals cite for not investing in telemedicine are based on old information or popular misconceptions. Here are a few of the telemedicine myths that have gained the most traction (and why they aren’t factual).

There are two main areas of concern which feed the myths around telemedicine: quality of care and financial investment. Partial truths, outdated information, and misunderstandings about how telemedicine works generated these myths.

Quality of Care Myths

Telemedicine is complicated, confusing, or has too many components to learn.

The verdict: only if you want it to be. You don’t have to hire an IT specialist just to offer telemedicine. While there is a lot happening on the technology side, the part you are likely concerned with rests on the user’s side. Successful platforms have simple, intuitive user interfaces. Some telemedicine applications have even been designed using a traditional doctor’s feedback, which might make using it more familiar to you.

The versatility of telemedicine is beneficial for the provider as well as the patient. The many ways to implement it means you can tailor which telemedicine services would best suit your business, patients, and bottom line. All at the same time.

Telemedicine isn’t secure enough to ensure patients’ privacy.

The verdict: not necessarily. Like nearly anything that companies use, video conferencing comes in two types: consumer and business. Consumer platforms are meant for use by the general public while business-grade applications are created for a targeted solution.

It is true that consumer-grade video conferencing platforms (like Skype and its competitors) are not secure enough to be HIPAA compliant. However, telemedicine-specific technology does exist. There are video conferencing applications which were created solely for use in telemedicine and to honor HIPAA regulations.

Telemedicine can’t replace a physical exam, therefore, it isn’t worth offering.

The verdict: partial truth. It is true telemedicine can’t replace a physical examination but not every doctor visit really requires it. Doctors already give basic medical advice and hold simple discussions with their patients over the phone. Telemedicine just gives patients another option for addressing these minor issues.

Besides people with non-urgent medical concerns, telemedicine benefits other types of patients, particularly those with chronic conditions which need monitoring or those who need follow-ups to in-person visits.

Which is a hint about the next set of myths.

Telemedicine Can Help Grow Your Business - Smart Vision Labs

Financial Myths

Telemedicine is a waste of money and resources because people won’t use it.

The verdict: false. It turns out, people don’t like to wait for things, whether it is at the supermarket checkout, in line for a new smartphone, or for health care. Except with that last one, you don’t get to come home with a new gadget or favorite snack. Nearly everyone has a memory of sitting in their doctor’s waiting room for a quick 5-minute visit while everyone else seems to have fallen victim to flu season.

But, unlike waiting in line for a retail store, the time it takes to see a doctor is even longer. The average time to schedule doctor’s appointments in the United States is 24 days, according to Forbes. Major cities suffer even longer wait times.

Once the patient actually gets in the office, the situation still doesn’t improve. A 2015 Software Advice survey found 97 percent of respondents were upset at long wait times at the doctor, even though 45 percent waited less than 15 minutes. The same survey also reports that 75 percent of patients who have never used telemedicine services would consider trying them.

For non-critical cases, telemedicine provides convenience and flexibility for the patient. Providing supplementary care to traditional health appointments is the ideal use scenario for telemedicine. Think of the reverse side of that situation as well. A busy doctor, in the middle of flu season, uses an appointment block to see a patient that only needed a quick follow-up. Using telemedicine, that doctor can see another patient who does need a physical exam and offer care to the follow-up patient.

Telemedicine doesn’t allow for proper compensation or reimbursement for the doctor.

The verdict: no longer true. There are two aspects to the payment issue: ease of reimbursement and concern about doctors being properly compensated for their time.

Laws and regulations don’t evolve and update with nearly the speed technology does. Although telemedicine has been around for decades, its quick growth is recent. It was previously difficult for providers to be reimbursed for telemedicine use but state laws are finally catching up. 24 states so far have “parity laws” which ensure telehealth services are treated the same as an in-person visit. Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are recognizing telemedicine services as legitimate and reimbursing them on a par with traditional visits.

As for compensation, doctors might actually be losing revenue by not delegating some tasks to telemedicine services. Doctors already aren’t being paid for the time they spend refilling prescriptions or discussing medical information with their patients over the phone. That time could be spent with a patient who is physically in their waiting room while the routine prescription refill gets handled by telemedicine. Doing so also increases the satisfaction of the refill patient because you’ve created the convenience of allowing them to not even leave their home.

Telemedicine puts doctors at risk for malpractice lawsuits.

The verdict: false. It’s actually the opposite. To start, it is intended to supplement traditional in-person visits. It alleviates strain on already crowded offices while still offering care to patients who don’t need an exam. It saves money for patients and provides a new point of income for physicians. Telemedicine’s growth in recent years is related to these aspects of expanding health care options. Issuing a malpractice claim to a doctor who used videoconferencing with a patient is absurd when doctors have been discussing medical issues with patients over the telephone for decades. The service didn’t change, the technology did.

Telemedicine actually provides some additional protection against malpractice claims. Especially concerning post-op patients and those with chronic conditions, services like video conferencing create a new point of contact between patient and doctor. The patient can communicate with their physician more often and if problems arise, notice and treat them sooner. It also provides another means to document the services given.

How is Telemedicine Impacting Your Business?

Telemedicine Benefits - Smart Vision Labs

Telemedicine impacts businesses in several ways. The technology is effective if you are either the provider of health care services or the facilitator of them. Whether you own an optical store and offer the Smart Vision Labs 5-Minute Smart Vision Exam, or are in charge of a chain of stores that need a boost in revenue, telemedicine can work for you.

This is perhaps the most significant change in the health care industry since it is embraced by a variety of people, from patients to doctors, to insurance providers. As business owners already know, implementing a new course of action requires acceptance and easy compliance, and with telemedicine, those conditions have already been met.

Telemedicine is not only profitable, it’s possible, and that’s the difference between failure and success. Making use of this technology adds value to your business in ways that will position you at the forefront of this healthcare trend that is revealing its true potential with every virtual visit.

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