- Telemedicine may be “moving from the periphery to the mainstream” in healthcare, but it will be physicians who take the concept to new heights.
The American Telemedicine Association kicked off its 21st annual conference and trade show on Sunday with a call to arms, pushing the technology as the healthcare ecosystem of the future while calling on the nation’s doctors to make it work.
It won’t be easy. While ATA President Reed Tuckson, MD, FACP, offered a long, somewhat breathless litany of advances and successes for the ATA during an extended opening keynote, a panel of four physician champions following him was quick to point out the challenges that remain. Chief among them: Telemedicine has to be proven to the medical community before it can be adopted.
Jack Resneck, Jr., MD, a member of the American Medical Association’s Board of Directors and a practicing dermatologist, noted a recent study that had been done on consumer-facing telehealth platforms that uncovered a number of problems, from incorrect or incomplete diagnoses to lapses in standards of care and questionable certifications for some online doctors.
Resneck expressed strong support for telemedicine, saying the AMA has been working on that evidence base from several angles, including its Health2047 project and support of interstate licensure. But with consumer-facing platforms flooding the market with sometimes-questionable practices, it’s up to organizations like the ATA and AMA to separate and support the platforms that are proven and reliable. As one panelist noted, one failed telemedicine project can do more harm than several successes.
Part of the problem, the panel said, lies in training. Too many teaching institutions think telemedicine can be added on to a clinician’s workload, like another lesson to be learned. ‘It’s actually a unique skillset that has to be learned,” Resneck said.
Resneck, joined on the stage by David B. Hoyt, MD, executive director of the American College of Surgeons; Russell L. Holman, MD, chief medical officer of LifePoint Health; and Eric Anderson, MD, chairman of the American Academy of Neurology’s Telemedicine Work Group (and someone who practices teleneurology in some 22 states), said physicians have to be at the forefront of telemedicine because they’re the ones who will use it to manage and save lives.
Telemedicine shouldn’t be separated from the practice of medicine, Hoyt added. It should be a tried-and-true method of care that physicians use to treat patients.
So while Tuckson had more than enough evidence that the ATA was making great strides in taking telemedicine to the mainstream, he and the panel noted there’s still a lot of work to be done. And that begins with the doctors.