Telemedicine: Weighing the Pros and Cons

the MPR take:

Telemedicine has a great deal of promise in increasing patients’ access to care and reducing costs, but issues with billing and standards of care may hinder widespread adoption of this practice. A recent survey found that 55% of respondents did not bill for telemedicine services because neither Medicaid nor private insurers pay for the service. As of now the definition of telemedicine by the U.S. government is limited to professional consultations, office visits, and office psychiatry services via a telecommunications system that excludes phones, faxes, and emails. Yet, many physicians are using these methods, along with others, to increase access at a lower cost. The Federation of State Medical Boards recently revised their policy on telemedicine stating that a credible patient-physician relationship needs to be established before medical care can be delivered electronically. Standards of care that protect the patient during regular in-person interactions should also apply to when care is delivered electronically. Other key areas of medical practice that need to be adhered to include privacy and security of records, informed consent, and safe prescribing.

Gauging the Promise and Perils of Telemedicine
Gauging the Promise and Perils of Telemedicine

Increasing patients' access to care at lower cost are two highly anticipated benefits of telemedicine. Advocates for expanding its use say that if handled properly, telemedicine can improve overall quality of care. But widespread adoption will require some significant changes in how physicians deliver and are paid for these services.