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A virtual office visit for your cold is not a good idea

[preamble]Cutting costs that’s what this is all about – whilst i am a big advocate of technology and its applications, i am not a supporter of it being used and endorsed by companies to only generate more profits at the expense of health.
Insurance companies are making decisions and lobbying for practices that ar enot medical or for the better good but to simply cut costs and increase their profits.
Tele-health has a place in rural areas and for specific purposes but i do not believe it should take the place of the physician/patient relationship.
What we all forget is that the doctor/patient relationship is what medicine is all about and what helps with the cure. Virtualizing, impeding and putting more layers in front of this basic core of the medical world is not good for anyone, does not reduce costs and does not promote better medicine.

“Doctor i am sick” “Let me examine you – take this and call me if you still don’t feel well”- in its simplest form, this is what promotes better health, higher compliance because patients want to get better and listen to their doctors. This cannot be regulated – we all hear of compliance and meaningful; use – meaningfully useless! A patient WANTS to trust and work with their doctors – always have and always will  – its so simple the pundits don’t get it and increase the complexity and government involvement until its destroyed and meaningless.

Nothing the government has done or mandated has shown any benefits in medicine.

technology and tele-health have a place in medicine and will grow more and more useful – but it will not and should not take the place of the doctor/patient interaction that is crucial for the essence of medicine.[backtopost]
| Kevin’s Take | February 10, 2013
Like many other primary care doctors across the country, I’m seeing my fair share of patients with runny noses during this winter season.

I recently saw a patient for a sinus infection whom asked, “Why did I have to come in to see you? Couldn’t you have given me an antibiotic over the Internet?”

If health insurers had their way, more doctors would be seeing patients and possibly prescribing medications online. However, I would be wary of this scenario.

Despite video chats being commonplace, so-called virtual office visits have yet to be the standard in healthcare. It seems that companies and health insurers are currently driven by cutting costs and are open to changing the physician/patient interaction process. More are starting to offer services where patients can consult doctors through a webcam-enabled laptop, or through a smartphone or tablet. According to a survey by Mercer, a human resource consulting firm, 15% of very large employers use some form of telemedicine, and another 39% are considering it.

This type of process typically costs around $40, and patients with minor illnesses can instantly access a physician or nurse practitioner and be prescribed medication online. Patients rave about the convenience, while they sidestep the frustration of scheduling an appointment with a doctor, or worse, going to the emergency room, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

But something is lost through these virtual connections.  There is value to face-to-face interaction, where a provider talks to and examines a patient in person. For example, I’ve seen a patient convinced that he had a sinus infection only to find that he had a tumor inside his nose. Another complained of minor ear pain, but after examining her, I saw that it had spread to the point where she needed to be hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics. Both of these diagnoses would have been missed had I only treated them over the Internet.

Without the ability to talk to and examine patients in the exam room, many doctors play it safe and reflexively prescribe drugs, whether patients need them or not. A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients who were treated through Internet-based virtual visits had higher antibiotic prescription rates for their sinus infections, compared to patients whom were seen in the office.

That’s a problem when you consider that most sinus infections clear up themselves, and don’t require antibiotics. A study last year found that patients who had sinus infections felt the same after a few days, whether they received antibiotics or not. Worse, unnecessary drugs contribute to the growing problem of antibiotics resistance. Guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and Choosing Wisely, a consortium of national medical societies that provide evidence-based guidelines, also recommend against knee-jerk antibiotic prescriptions for sinus infections.

It is important to consider what would happen if something went wrong after the online only consultation. For example, what if the patient had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, or symptoms that got worse? Good luck getting a follow-up from that same online doctor.

I do believe that there is some room for virtual visits, with stricter conditions. For patients that I have already met and know well, managing their hypertension and diabetes through a video chat on my tablet is tremendously helpful. But I would not feel comfortable treating patients on the web that I’ve only met minutes earlier.

Currently, only 13 states allow doctors to prescribe drugs and treat patients online, without actually meeting the person in person first. With the zeal to cut costs and maximize convenience to patients, there will be tremendous pressure to expand that number. Please remember what is cheapest for insurers, and easiest for patients, isn’t necessarily what is best.