A common complaint of patients who go to the emergency room is that wait times are too long; telemedicine is allowing doctors to see and treat patients remotely, but hopefully this new-founded efficiency won’t be at the expense of patients receiving top-notch care. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, American Telemedicine (a trade group) states that in the United States 20 million people received remote medical care in 2016.
This group also optimistically believes that these numbers will grow by 15% this year, which could completely change the way that emergency rooms operate. Picture this: you go into the emergency room, and instead of eventually coming face to face with your doctor, your doctor is instead talking to you from a computer, similar to Facetiming with someone. However, you are still being physically seen by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant who can help with procedures such as suture removals and wound checks.
This Wall Street Journal article lists the goals of telemedicine as lowering the amount of time that patients wait along with getting patients without critical or urgent matters in and out of the emergency room efficiently without care being compromised. It would be wise for these hospitals to properly monitor and follow-up with these patients who are seen via telemedicine to ensure that they are indeed being adequately cared for.
Unfortunately, hospitals make mistakes, and it would be interesting to see what types of new challenges and mistakes could come about from treatment through telemedicine versus traditional hospital practices. According to this same Wall Street Journal article, critics of telemedicine have wondered about the quality of care being jeopardized for convenience, along with the impersonal nature of virtual care. However, times are changing and some people may not mind the convenience factor or the somewhat detached nature of this sort of care.
If telemedicine expands as rapidly as some experts believe, hospitals will likely soon be going through somewhat of a revamp process. It will be important to stay in the loop about what exactly telemedicine entails to ensure that you receive the type of treatment you are looking for from a hospital, especially if telemedicine comes to a hospital near you in the future.