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Physician Telehealth Services Impact the Dermatology Field

By Vera Gruessner

- Physician telehealth services have been taking off in recent years as more states have adopted reimbursement models and legislation to support payment parity between video-based consults and in-person care. With doctor shortages taking place in rural locations across the country, physician telehealth services also offered another opportunity for patients to receive greater access to care.

Physician Telemedicine Consults

It is also important to note that physician telehealth services have been adopted in a variety of different medical fields such as pediatric care, long-term geriatric care, and other specialties. For instance, telehealth technology has now been adopted in various schools in Texas due to a new law, reported mHealthIntelligence.com.

“Starting Sept. 1, a new law will allow physicians to get paid for seeing children over a sophisticated form of video chat, as long as the student is at school and enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. The law’s supporters say it could lead more schools around the state to set up nurse's offices equipped to handle remote doctor visits — and save parents time and money,” the Texas Tribune reported.

Another route that seems to be taking advantage of physician telehealth services is the dermatology field. UnitedHealthcare stated in a press release that its Medicaid plan located in Hawaii will now include the use of telemedicine services. More efficient diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders, in particular, will be promoted through remote imaging and physician telehealth services.

An online platform will be used to improve communication between primary care doctors and dermatologists using a private and secure telemedicine application. As such, primary care physicians would provide faster diagnostics and treatment to their patients.

Additionally, new technologies have enabled doctors to capture digital images of a particular skin disorder or other condition during a typical physical exam. The primary care physician can then send any images of concern to the dermatologist using a secure online telehealth platform. A tablet, smart phone, or laptop can be used to complete this process.

This type of system can benefit patients who live in rural areas and lack access to specialty care like dermatology. Instead of having to set up multiple doctors’ appointments and receive referrals, a patient can receive the needed treatment directly from their primary care physician. This saves both doctors and patients time invested in their care by providing treatment much more quickly.

“Sharing patient data and images remotely reduces the wait for real-time results, which can be critically important for patients – especially when it concerns conditions like skin cancer,” Dr. Ron Fujimoto, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Hawaii, said in a public statement.

With Hawaii being the typical destination of sun tanning and surfing in the warm waters, it grows more important to ensure that its residents receive the right care when it comes to potential skin problems like severe sunburn or even skin cancer.

In fact, statistics show that the number of people diagnosed with melanoma in Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties is significantly higher than that of the national average. For instance, in Maui, the rate of melanoma diagnoses is nearly double the national average. This is why using physician telehealth services in order to receive quick and efficient dermatological care is so important in the state of Hawaii.

“Telemedicine now gives Medicaid beneficiaries in Hawaii access to more timely care and treatment,” David Heywood, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Hawaii, UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid business in the state, stated in the press release. “This technology helps save time and costs, and gives patients better access to care no matter where they live.”

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