Drs. Marinelli and DeRouen discuss the current and future role of telemedicine in healthcare, and the struggles it poses for physicians and patients.
- [01:03] How Dr. DeRouen Became Involved in Telemedicine
- [04:04] How COVID-19 Influenced Telemedicine
- [07:30] Challenges for Physicians in Telemedicine
- [10:22] Virtual Medical Rounds
- [13:35] Patient Satisfaction in Telemedicine
- [16:19] How Telemedicine Complements Brick and Mortar Medical Practices
- [18:13] The Future of Telemedicine
Telemedicine During COVID-19
During COVID-19, many patients have lost access to their healthcare providers, or are avoiding in-person visits to mitigate their risk of infection. Telemedicine allows patients to access care from their doctors without seeing them in person. This care can take the form of a phone call, video call, or even just a text message. Some doctors work full-time as virtual healthcare providers, whilst others provide their telemedicine services on-call using an Uber-like system.
Telemedicine is especially helpful for high-risk patients or patients from rural communities for whom a doctor’s visit may be inconvenient, or even unsafe. Further, people with busy working schedules can access 24/7 telemedicine services. Telemedicine does not only benefit outpatient care. Dr. Erkeda DeRouen describes a friend — an infectious disease attendee— who discussed doing virtual rounds with patients in wards. Of course, there has to be a physician present during these rounds, but virtual rounds allow more physicians from interdisciplinary backgrounds to be present, thus increasing the quality of patient care.
Challenges In Telemedicine
The greatest challenge for physicians in telemedicine is that they cannot perform physical examinations of their patients. However, Dr. DeRouen explains that most components of a doctor’s visit occur outside the doctor’s office. Often, during the actual visit, the doctor and patient simply discuss the patient’s medical history, their habits, or the result of some tests. She can often provide a diagnosis without actually physically examining the patient. Even in specialties like dermatology, where physical examination might appear important, there are often ways to bypass this obstacle, by examining images of the patient’s skin, for example.
While brick and mortar practices can never be fully replaced by telemedicine, much of the load on these traditional practices can be transferred to telemedicine. This frees up time slots for patients who actually require physical contact, like patients who need biopsies or physical examinations. With the advancement in telemedical devices, such as robots that attend hospital rounds, and cheap otoscopes for parents to use at home, more and more of the load can be shifted to telemedicine. Dr. DeRouen is very excited about the expansion of telemedicine and hopes that more telemedical devices will be developed in the future because this will further abate the need for in-person visits.