“Telemedicine started as a mechanism to bring access to remote locations, but I think what’s going to happen here, and as we shift from a vol to value type process, there are all kinds of thing you can use telemedicine for,” he continued. His hope is that telemedicine is eventually incorporated into everyday medical delivery, making high-quality care more affordable simply by better leveraging expensive experts.
If you take away the need to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar location, Kvedar said, you gain the ability to become much more efficient. Virtual follow-ups can go a long way to reducing overall costs in the industry. “If it’s something that can be dealt with without the patient traveling, we prefer to do that,” Marcin agreed.
The key is to make sure that patients feel connected to their doctors, even if they’re being evaluated by a team of health care providers.
“In our experience, programs work best when there’s a link back to the patient’s doctor,” Kevdar said. Even so, “It doesn’t mean that the doctor has to be in every single consultation.”
Telemedicine has the potential to close the gap between rural America, where few physicians live and work, and urban areas, home to the largest and most-prestigious hospitals. Adding telemedicine capability has actually allowed Mercy Health to recruit more doctors to remote areas, Britton said.
But even though the care is given remotely, “It’s not substandard care, in any event,” Kevdar emphasized. Wang agreed.
“Telemedicine has a ‘stigma’ -- not quite the right word -- on being a solution just for the rural area. That’s a notion I’d like to dispel,” he said. “It can be applied to everywhere. In LA, just getting across the city to another hospital can take an hour because of traffic, but telemedicine makes it more possible.”