By Jessica Beard on July 14th, 2011

The new wave of medical technology is upon us—telemedicine. In the beginning, telemedicine battled various barriers of entry into the healthcare space such as cost, reimbursement, malpractice, security and human contact. However, telemedicine trudged through and is swiftly gaining momentum, especially with recent announcements that Medicare will now reimburse healthcare organizations for this type of care.The wealth of knowledge and collaborative efforts being spurred by ACOs, patient-centered medical homes and the notion of coordinated care collectively support the need for telemedicine. From assisting emergency departments with physician specialists into the wee hours of the night to relieving the stress from rural hospitals when disasters strike, telemedicine is a reliable source of medical care.  Don’t take my word for it…

  • 73% of emergency department directors feel their on-call coverage is lacking, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Telemedicine is often times available 24/7 helping to combat these issues.
  • AAMC reports project shortages of 35,000 surgeons and 27,000 specialists by the year 2020. Yet again, telemedicine can help address this shortage by enabling healthcare organizations to leverage specialists concentrated in other locales.
  • A study by Oklahoma State University  suggests an increased number of services and improvement in quality of care in a time efficient manner with telemedicine.
  • Access to specialists increases the ability for an emergency department or ICU to make quick, lifesaving decisions resulting in faster recovery times. For example, telemedicine reduced ICU mortality by 20% and shortened the average length of stay in the ICU by 1.26 days according to a recent Archives of Internal Medicine report.
  • Through telemedicine, patients can leave the hospital early and still receive the follow up attention needed. In comparison to traditional home care, telemedicine—or telehome—costs 33 to 50% less, as reported by the Telemedicine Association of Oregon. In addition, nurses and physicians are readily available upon emergencies.

As the healthcare industry focuses on transitioning to ICD-10/5010, increasing patient quality care, battling physician shortages and reducing costs, one should consider incorporating telemedicine into patient care plans. The lack of human touch may be foreign at first, but it seems telemedicine can provide a warm and caring encounter, giving patients access to the emergency and specialty care they need.What are your thoughts?