Some doctors find it more convenient to consult their patients over the phone or Skype rather than making a good ol’ fashioned house call. And some patients couldn’t agree more as telemedicine relieves them of the stress and anxiety a visit to the doctor may imply and it is a lot cheaper.
Some believe that telemedicine can greatly help health care providers extend their reach to patients that are either disabled or too afraid to make an appointment at their GP’s office. Nevertheless there are some skeptics who argue that in some illnesses and conditions you need to make direct contact with the patient in order to learn what the problem may be.
Yet, supporters of telemedicine argue that the method can truly be a game-changer because the new technology can significantly trim down costs of ER visits, while doctors can have access to more patients. Additionally, bed-ridden patients and those in need of prolonged health care assistance can be monitored more easily by their GP.
Dr. Lawrence R. Wechsler head of the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences’ Department of Neurology believes that virtual assistance can help stroke patients get quickly in touch with a doctor, which may prove life-saving to many. In case of stroke, a doctor can treat the patient within a minute, thus preventing unnecessary disabilities.
Telemedicine may also help employers make $6 billion savings in insurance costs every year, according to a recently published report from the New York City-based research firm Towers Watson.
So, insurers and companies are currently trying to pressurize U.S. governments to put telemedicine on the reimbursable service list.
“A lot of (our services) have been held back a little bit by the lack of reimbursement,”
noted Matt Levi, chief of telemedicine services at CHI Franciscan which debuted a few years ago.
According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) more than half of U.S. hospitals offer virtual health services for common ailments to their patients. Worldwide, telemedicine was worth $11.6 billion and is expected to worth thrice that much by 2016.
Trina Diner, head of the telemedicine and palliative care department at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre noted that the center’s doctors can stay connected with their “end-of-life” patients via a tablet on a weekly basis. Diner also argued that the new technology involves fewer costs, while patients are more comfortable with it than with a real appointment with their doctors.
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