How telemedicine can help patients and solve physician burnout

I have been practicing telemedicine successfully for four years. In 2015, I had to beg doctors to work in telemedicine. Because so many doctors were wary of it, I started to get licensed in multiple states, and now, I have 15 state licenses. Well, what a difference a few years makes. Now, in 2019, I get six to seven Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram messages a week from physicians asking me if I am hiring for my telemedicine practice.

Now, do all doctors feel that way? No. Some doctors are reluctant to adopt telemedicine. After conducting a poll online via social media, I saw that the reason for the hesitancy was that doctors felt a lack of control over what happens during the telemedicine visit. For example, a patient uses a virtual telemedicine service instead of coming into the office, and then, the in-office doctor does not truly know if the telemedicine visit was handled appropriately. The in-office doctor also has very little way to get in touch with the telemedicine doctor that saw the patient via a third-party platform.

This is clearly a very frustrating situation for the patient’s “in person” physician.

So, the reality is, patients are going to use telemedicine. It doesn’t matter how many doctors are wary of it. The convenience of telemedicine is something that patients have come to expect. Patients use online banking, they shop online, and they book travel online. Thus, they now have come to expect this also in health care. The growth of telemedicine is inevitable, and we as doctors need to be part of this movement.

If physicians are involved in the evolution of telemedicine, then we can influence how it is practiced to ensure the safety of telehealth.

One way doctors can get into telemedicine right away is by beginning to offer virtual care to their existing patients as an extension of their current practice. These doctors are likely to not only have higher patient satisfaction levels, but will also be able to offer their patients a 360-degree care experience. And, of course, if the doctor does think that the patient needs to come in, they can advise that during the virtual visit.

The benefits of telemedicine don’t just stop at the patient; there are many benefits for the doctor also. Telemedicine gives physicians more freedom in the way they practice medicine, especially when caring for established patients who they know very well. There are codes that allow doctors to be paid for virtual patient interactions. Everyone knows that physician burnout is on the rise and new technology and telemedicine can help give doctors more work-life balance. I encourage doctors to not shy away from telemedicine, but rather, become part of the conversation, and help to shape its future.

Saya Nagori is an ophthalmologist and editor, @MedicineandTech Newsletter.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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