BMC HealthService Research did a nationwide survey of over 4,000 Americans and found that TeleHealth provided “accessible, efficient care that can reduce costs while maintaining quality of care and patient satisfaction” and “immediate and convenient access to a care provider that usually costs less than a standard in-person urgent care or emergency room visit”. They also found that direct to consumer “telemedicine has also been shown to increase access to care to those without a primary care provider”. The American College of Physicians published a statement in 2015 which endorsed “telemedicine within the context of an established patient-provider relationship in a medical home if it meets the same standards of practice as in-person care”
“The AAFP supports expanded use of telehealth and telemedicine as an appropriate and efficient means of improving health, when conducted within the context of appropriate standards of care. The appropriateness of a telemedicine service should be dictated by the standard of care and not by arbitrary policies. Available technology capabilities as well as an existing physician-patient relationship impact whether the standard of care can be achieved for a specific patient encounter type.
Telehealth technologies can enhance patient-physician collaborations, increase access to care, improve health outcomes by enabling timely care interventions, and decrease costs when utilized as a component of, and coordinated with, longitudinal care. Responsible care coordination is necessary to ensure patient safety and continuity of care for the immediate condition being treated, and it is necessary for effective longitudinal care (for clarification, forwarding documentation by electronic means, including fax, is not acceptable for coordination of care with the primary care physician or medical home). As such, the treating physician within a telemedicine care encounter should bear the responsibility for follow-up with both the patient and the primary care physician or medical home regarding the telemedicine encounter.
The AAFP defines telehealth and telemedicine as:
Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance, over a telecommunications infrastructure, between a patient at an originating (spoke) site and a physician, or other practitioner licensed to practice medicine, at a distant (hub) site.
Telehealth refers to a broad collection of electronic and telecommunications technologies and services that support at-a-distance healthcare delivery and services. Telehealth technologies and tactics support virtual medical, health and education services.
Telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services such as provider training, continuing medical education or public health education, administrative meetings, and electronic information sharing to facilitate and support assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, and care management.”
The ISDA cited in their position statement that TeleHealth has the capacity to improve access to care, patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and reduction of medical costs.
There are numerous shortfalls that have been cited for the delay in the broader adoption of telemedicine. The usual suspects include; slow payer adoption causing limitations in reimbursement, costs of technology, practice integration issues, cumbersome interstate licensing rules, restrictions in malpractice coverage and many more. These are legitimate issues and despite significant progress being made to address all of these concerns, the adoption rates for telemedicine are still low. Perhaps a more powerful reason for this lack of adoption, is a deficiency in physician training within the field of telemedicine.
“In an age where the average consumer manages nearly all aspects of life online, it’s a no-brainer that healthcare should be just as convenient, accessible and safe as online banking,” Linkous said in a press release. “This program ensures that online healthcare services are following the necessary standards, guidelines and laws to provide safe care to American consumers.”