Certified medical assistants and other medical health professionals are always looking for ways to improve both their craft as well as their patient care. With the rise of telemedicine, or the exchange of medical information from one site to another via electronic communications1, the relationship between doctor and patient is beginning to change.

Telemedicine is available to patients in any location
There’s no arguing that telemedicine is convenient for patients. By taking away the commute and time spent in the waiting room, patients have access to qualified health professionals at their fingertips. Telemedicine services can do it all, virtually. Thorough evaluations, accurate diagnoses and the prescription of medicine can all be done with a online doctor.

With telemedicine, patients in distant locations, without access to regular medical services, can receive treatment that they maybe wouldn’t have normally. Not only are clients supported by online medical experts, but doctors and nurses can expand their reach to remote areas and continue to help people.1

Online services can also save patients money. According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine has proven to not only reduce the cost of health care, but to increase efficiency through fewer or shorter hospital stays, shared health staffing and reduced travel times for patients.1 Yet while telemedicine may be beneficial to those receiving the services, on-site medical professionals are hesitant to add online staffing into their daily regimen.

Some doctors are resistant
The advances of telemedicine may make medical experts reevaluate the best ways doctors and patients interact and relate to one another. Doctors and nurses worry that incorporating telemedicine into their routines will negatively affect patient relationships and care.

A 2009 study conducted by the University of Texas Medical School in Houston showed while telemedicine could improve survival among I.C.U. patients due to around the clock monitoring, the on-site resistance to the technology made it hard to prove the positive impact it had on patient care.2 In this study, doctors had the ability to choose whether they wanted minimum or maximum remote involvement. The maximum allowed on-site clinicians and online doctors to work together on patient orders and treatment plans. Most doctors chose the option that allotted for the least amount of online doctor interaction.2

According to the New York Times, reporting on this study in 2010, doctors and registered nurses felt the remote medical professionals were intrusive and upsetting their workflow.2 With someone looking over their shoulder, on-site medical professionals felt their abilities were being judged, instead of aided by online clinicians.

Infrastructure and acceptance are necessary
Introducing telemedicine without a clear-cut plan could negatively affect its acceptance on both a doctor and a patient level. Each party needs to know the benefits of the online services, while also realizing that their relationship to each other is subject to slight changes. With the introduction of telemedicine to the medical world, the definition of doctor-patient relationship will be altered.2

The idea of remote clinicians providing patient care can be frightening, but the need for telemedicine, at the very least as an additional resource for doctors and their clients, now and in the future is likely.2 As the demand for health care professionals continues to rise, especially in rural areas, online medical services will be able to provide and improve patient care.

Dr. Eric J. Thomas, lead author of the University of Texas study, believes the incorporation of telemedicine will only work if on-site medical health professionals learn to accept the change.2 The most important thing is that both remote clinicians and regular health care providers are committed to providing the best patient care possible. Keeping that in mind, telemedicine can be beneficial to both doctor and patient.2

New methods of improving patient care for doctors and certified medical assistants continue to develop over time. Change is inevitable with the introduction of these unfamiliar techniques, but by accepting the advances, medical health professionals can start a discourse on the state of doctor-patient relationships and quality service.

1“What is Telemedicine,” American Telemedicine Association, 2012. http://www.americantelemed.org/about-telemedicine/what-is-telemedicine#.VVn9aflViko

2“Are Doctors Ready for Virtual Visits?” Pauline W. Chen, M.D., Jan. 7, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/health/07chen.html?_r=0

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