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Four Advantages of Telemedicine

By Jonathan Terry, DO, ABIHM to Telemedicine


Four Advantages of Telemedicine

Our guest on Healthcare Matters is Jonathan Terry, DO, ABIHM. Dr. Terry is an osteopathic physician and surgeon and general psychiatrist who uses telemedicine extensively in his practice. Dr. Terry practices at the United Health Centers of San Joaquin Valley, which recently won the 2016 Health Delivery, Quality and Transformation Award from the American Telemedicine Association.In Part III of our series, Physician Focus: Telemedicine, we ask Dr. Terry about the advantages telemedicine can bring to both patients and physicians.

This is only one of the many questions we asked Dr. Terry about telemedicine. Check out all of them here:

  1. Defining Telemedicine
  2. Ways the Affordable Care Act Affects Telemedicine
  3. Four Advantages of Telemedicine
  4. Informed Consent and Telemedicine
  5. Electronic Medical Records and Documentation in Telemedicine
  6. Legislative Challenges to Telemedicine
  7. Telemedicine Reimbursement Rates
  8. Physician Focus: Telemedicine


Mike Matray: That obviously seems like a definite advantage for somebody who is home bound. What are some of the other advantages of telemedicine to both the patient and the physician, and in what situations are these advantages more pronounced?

Dr. Terry: Really great questions Mike. Of course, we wouldn’t be doing telemedicine if there weren’t significant advantages for both patient and provider. For starters, when I train my staff on the technology, I’ll tell them in general about the acceptance. Some might be fearful, you know, that the patient doesn’t want to be seen over the t.v., something like that. And I’ll site several studies showing that patients who see the doctor over telemedicine as opposed to the same doctor in a face-to-face study will perceive that provider as being first more knowledgeable and second as having spent more time with the patient, which I think are two great things for our fragmented healthcare system.

One of my favorite things though, that I have to say about telemedicine, really, and the main reason that I use it in my practice is for improved access. It can of course expand the reach of our providers beyond the walls of the clinic, beyond the walls of the hospital, bring healthcare to the home, to the school, to the rural community, to the islands, to international recipients, things we couldn’t do before. In my own experience I do consultation psychiatry for a migrant health center and a federally qualified health center that covers three counties in rural, central California. In one day Mike, I might see patients across 13 clinics in a nearly 200 mile area all without leaving my office. Every single one of these patients is somebody who comes from an underserved background who would have just tremendous difficulty in having the same sort of access with a local provider.

On a similar note, I would mention, you know, telemedicine is highly cost-effective. There are several studies that point at reduced healthcare costs, something we’re all concerned about, through adoption of telemedicine and the efficiency that comes with it. The neat thing about this is while each state requires sort of specific technology for telemedicine, now we’re doing it with our tablets, and with mobile phones. There are a number of clinics that are doing – just using secure software that way.

And with telemedicine of course a third thing that that I might mention is it’s reasonable to believe we might be accepting convenience in exchange for some sacrifice in quality. And, I think that’s a valid concern, but the data just doesn’t show it. It’s interesting, it shows the exact opposite. In many disciplines telemedicine has actually been shown to offer a better product higher patient satisfaction and similar, if not better outcomes.

The last thing I might mention, and I know there’s a lot to say about this question, is patient demand. And, you know, I think about this in terms of we can now stream new release movies in our homes, we can have packages delivered the next day, so I think a lot of our consumers are saying – why do I have to go to the clinic and take time off work to go to the doctor’s office? So telemedicine, of course, has its role in highly underserved communities, but maybe even in our urban environments, for the working customer, patients, families, communities, even employers are really figuring out, ok, how can we make this technology work for us, to make healthcare more accessible?