New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association offers up some unsurprising data that states that telemedicine is not only on the rise but that patients prefer “access over continuity” of care. The convenience factor is a big draw for patients utilizing telemedicine:
“People are interested in convenience and the health care system and primary care need to adapt to technology and also patient preferences. If we don’t adapt it’s a missed opportunity,” said Dr. Winston Liaw of the University of Houston College of Medicine.
The study points out that most of those utilizing telemedicine are educated, employed, and more likely to be living in urban areas.
There are downsides to telemedicine and one of them relates to communication between different services used, meaning medical professionals may not have all of the relevant information or records during consultations. Without a solitary primary care practice, this is a challenge that can be found outside of telemedicine as well for patients.
A big advantage though could be closing the gaps in care for rural citizens given that there are growing medical deserts in those communities. Brian Balfour pointed out in a piece titled “Alternatives to Medicaid Expansion” that “70 of 80 rural counties in NC are currently designated ‘medical deserts’ for their lack of primary care availability.”
The Civitas Institute has been a proponent of expanding access to telemedicine and more specifically keeping government out of its own way to regulate a form of care that is less costly and can improve access.
A separate study from January published in the American Journal of Managed Care showed that treatment or care does not suffer if one opts for telemedicine services.
The lack of rural physicians and care is a big crisis across this country, as evidenced by this recent Tweet from State Rep. David Lewis about a story in Nevada:
Obviously, telemedicine won’t fix all the problems with access to care in rural communities, particularly emergency care, but hopefully more technological advances will lead to overall access and health improvements instead of more government mandates and bureaucracy that will assuredly result in higher costs and rationing of care.