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Health + Tech | Solo practice? Telemedicine can help you find a balance

Published:Sunday | February 23, 2020 | 12:25 AMDoug Halsall/Contributor
There are a lot of video conferencing software out there
Doug Halsall
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Technology has been changing the way we do things in the healthcare industry for years. Every year there are more and more innovations intended to improve care as well as various processes. Digitised healthcare has proven to be tremendously beneficial for patients and healthcare providers. It has eliminated the barriers of time and space and allowed for increased access. Telemedicine is also poised to revolutionise care and will be central to the digital health revolution.

Choosing the right telemedicine system is important. We have to first be clear that this is not simply a video call. There are a lot of video-conferencing software out there that can do that, but will not offer what is required for healthcare and for a complete end-to-end system and experience. There are some must-haves to enable telemedicine correctly and make such a platform efficient and effective.

These include:

- A built-in payment system.

- The ability to facilitate insurance claims adjudication.

- Integration with electronic medical records (EMR), including the ability to add the encounter to the patient’s EMR.

- Accommodate multiple care professionals on one call.

- Electronic prescription which can be sent to the pharmacy and accessed easily by the patient.

- A patient portal for appointment management as well as to choose the physician the patient wishes to see.

A bonus would be if the platform can be integrated into the doctor’s practice management system. This kind of interoperability would ensure seamless management of all patients who could easily switch between telemedicine and in-office visits.

Telemedicine has benefits all around. However, physicians with solo practices can benefit in many ways from using a telemedicine platform as part of their digital healthcare offerings.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Given that there is no time or space constraint with telemedicine, a doctor will be able to see more patients in less time. He/she is not bound to be in office to be able to work. In this way, multiple patients can be accommodated in even that time that it would take to drive in traffic to get to office.

Also, if the doctor has to be overseas for any reason, he/she could still continue to see patients with hardly a break in his practice. This would mean increased revenue and no unnecessary downtime in the business.

FLEXIBILITY

Telemedicine can be used from anywhere. We all know how frustrating it is to spend hours in traffic to get to work. Using a telemedicine platform can eliminate this headache. It means that the physician will have the ability to ‘open office’ at anytime. For example, a practice could also be opened on weekends and at night without the physician having to leave home.

This would also be good for patients who, for example, do not have time to leave work on weekdays to see a doctor or those with children who may need this service on weekends and at night. This, of course, would also mean that the doctor can maintain a work/life balance and get increased family time.

BETTER SCHEDULE MANAGEMENT

Telemedicine can reduce the problem of persons not showing up for appointments. The patient portal allows for the management of appointments – including cancellations.

Given the option, a person who may not be able to make an in-office appointment can opt for telemedicine from wherever they are. This means cancellations will be reduced because many of the reasons for cancellation of in-person visits can be offset by the use of an electronic platform. So, for example, if a parent does not have arrangements for childcare, if persons cannot leave work on time or at all, or if traffic prevents arriving on time, telemedicine can be used instead.

PATIENT SATISFACTION

A practice management system along with a telemedicine platform can improve patient satisfaction when they know that they have easy access to their physician. Also, persons are more likely to adhere to follow-up instructions if they can do it easily. This means that there will be better health outcomes when chronic conditions, for example, can be better managed and monitored.

In the past few years, a number of telemedicine vendors have entered the local market so there is no shortage of options.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com