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9 Myths of Telemedicine

As a physician with 20 years experience in an emergency room, I know the meaning of “overwhelmed.” It’s easy to feel like you’re in over your head when you’re facing a never-ending stream of patients with medical problems small and large.

Many physicians feel the same panic when they look at the health technology options that are available today. With every sort of program, app and device a few clicks away, it’s hard not to be skeptical when presented with a new piece of tech.

I believe that’s why many physicians never give telemedicine a second thought. For one reason or another, doctors let our skeptical sides get the best of us, because we think a lot of the “next big things” are just a fad.

But telemedicine isn’t going anywhere. It’s not a fad. I guarantee telemedicine will have a huge role in the future of medicine – largely because it brings a ton of benefits to both doctors and patients.

I’ve talked to many doctors about telemedicine as I’m explaining what eVisit does. A majority of the time, physicians who say they’re not interested just don’t have much experience with telemedicine and don’t fully understand how it can be used to benefit their practice. Their arguments against telemedicine are actually based on common myths – they don’t hold up when I explain the facts.

Once I explain exactly what telemedicine looks like in practice and debunk those myths, a majority of doctors are ready to come onboard – or are at least open to considering telemedicine. So the challenge is educating providers about that misinformation. What’s true about telemedicine and what’s not?

As a physician and as the co-founder of eVisit, I’m lucky to have a unique perspective: I’ve used telemedicine platforms and had a hand in building one. If you’re a physician who’s still on the fence about using telemedicine in your practice, take a look at these common myths and see if you change your mind.

1. I need to do a physical exam

Some doctors argue that an in-person exam is necessary to provide quality medical care. While an in-person exam is important in many scenarios, there are still a ton of conditions that don’t require one. Just think of all the conditions you’ve treated over the phone in the past. For many minor urgent conditions, knowing the patient’s medical history and the reported symptoms is enough to diagnose without a physical exam. Additionally, telemedicine is very valuable for simple follow-up calls or post-op check ins that generally don’t require a physical exam anyway.

2. Telemedicine technology is too overwhelming

Using new technology in your practice can be stressful, confusing and even scary. I understand this. However, adopting new technology is inevitable, and it doesn’t have to be impossible. Look for telemedicine solutions that were built with physician input – they’re more likely to be easily adapted to your workflow. When you’re shopping around, also evaluate how user-friendly the platform is, how much equipment or set-up you’ll need, and what the vendor provides for training. Look for a telemedicine platform that meets your needs, and also focuses on making the provider experience as easy as possible. There are telemedicine providers that meet all these criteria, and can offer you platforms that aren’t much more complicated than Skype or Facetime.

3. I won’t be compensated for my time

Telemedicine actually raises your compensation. Many doctors are surprised to hear this because they’re focused on the reimbursement aspect. But consider this – how much time have you spent on uncompensated after-hours calls? On prescription refills? Turning these use cases into telemedicine visits, can actually recapture compensation. Many telemedicine visits are also now reimburseable through Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers – especially as many states now have telemedicine parity laws. Plus, we’ve found that patients are often willing to pay a flat fee just for the convenience of doing a telemedicine visit.

4. It won’t work with my EMR

It’s true that  some telemedicine platforms don’t integrate with an EMR. But many do offer integrations, or generate a visit record that can be exported into your EMR.

5. It will cost too much

While it does depend on what kind of telemedicine program you want to build, telemedicine doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re just interested in offering patients a way to do virtual visits for simple check-ups, chronic care management, lab results discussions, your telemedicine solution doesn’t need to involve much more than access to a computer, webcam, and microphone, along with the appropriate web or mobile app. Without the extra equipment needs, software installation and set-up, and involved training sessions – telemedicine can actually be an affordable option even for small practices.

It’s also important to note that telemedicine can actually boost your practice revenue, and carries a great ROI.

6. My patients won’t use it

This comes as a surprise to some physicians: patients love telemedicine. According to a 2015 survey by Software Advice, only 16% of patients would prefer to seek care at an emergency room if they also had the option of telemedicine. Maybe that’s because 97% of patients are frustrated by doctor’s office wait times, but maybe they just love the convenience of being treated with no commute and no inconvenience.

7. It will increase risk of malpractice

Telemdicine can actually decrease your risk of malpractice by adding another chance for documentation of treatment. It also facilitates follow-ups and allows you to do more frequent check-ins to make sure patients are staying on track and adhering to treatment. Whether you’re an orthopedic surgeon with a full schedule of post-op appointments, or a concierge doctor checking in on a patient with a virus, telemedicine gives you more points of contact.

8. It’s not secure

Unlike Skype, and other video chat technologies, telemedicine platforms are HIPAA compliant and often engineered with military-grade security. If you’re at all concerned about security risk, just ask the telemedicine provider how they’ve built their platform to ensure 100% security and compliance with HIPAA.

9. It just won’t work for me

Like I said before, doctors are skeptical by nature–chalk it up to being too smart for our own good. But I can tell you from experience that I’ve seen doctors from all walks of life (even those who claim they aren’t “tech-savvy”) try out telemedicine and be impressed with the results. All it takes is the willingness to learn more and try it out in your practice.

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