Consider How to Incorporate Telemedicine into Your Practice
Dr. Albert suggests rheumatologists think about the different types of encounters that would work best in a video chat setting. Although performing a physical exam is important in some patients, he says it is not required for all visits. And those patients might just be perfect candidates for telemedicine.
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“Yes, the main downside is that you can’t examine the patient, physically. That is a little hard for rheumatologists to get used to,” he explains, noting well-trained nurses or “presenters” on the other end of the video connection make a difference, both in efficiency and patient satisfaction. For example, some training is needed to assist rheumatologists with physical exam maneuvers or adjusting the camera to look into the patients’ mouth.
“[Consider] follow-ups of patients with stable disease,” he says. “Many times, the majority of what you are doing is talking to the patient—and telemedicine is much better than a phone call, especially with the non-verbal communication.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Albert also imagines a nice intersection in rheumatology: advancements in fitness technology and telemedicine.
“I honestly think that in 10 years, telemedicine will be incorporated in every practice,” he says, noting he envisions a time in the not-too-distant future when payers will latch on to the benefits of telemedicine.
For now, however, he hopes all rheumatologists will take some time to get to know telemedicine a little better.
“Envision a way in which telemedicine would make your practice and your patients’ care improved,” he says. “I don’t think it is for every patient or every practice, but I think there is a substantial number of patients and practices where it could be integrated in a very productive way.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.