Insights - Article

Telemedicine Can Prove Skeptics Wrong

By Kevin Jones, RPh, MBA • August 9, 2016

Telemedicine Can Prove Skeptics Wrong

When a relatively new technology begins to expand in an industry, it’s not all that surprising when it gets put under the microscope. As the old adage goes, “people fear what they don’t understand.”  In the grand scheme of healthcare, telemedicine is a relatively new and unique avenue for providing care. This is not to say that people legitimately “fear” telemedicine. Rather, they are analyzing the benefits and performance of the technology with more scrutiny.

Recent cases are fueling skepticism

Most recently, research around several tele-dermatology services is offering fuel to these skeptics. In the study, some of the online doctors misdiagnosed major skin diseases, prescribed medications without sufficient medical history on the patient, or neglected to warn the patient of adverse effects. Further, two of the tele-dermatology sites in the study linked users to unlicensed, international practitioners. While these findings are by no means an indictment on the industry as a whole, they certainly don’t speak highly to the clinical value of the given telemedicine companies.

Higher scrutiny can alleviate concerns

According to some industry experts, telemedicine companies that provide high quality services should welcome this scrutiny. They should take it as an opportunity to demonstrate the true value of the services or software they provide. This is exactly what many telehealth companies are doing. The recent criticism is driving more established companies to continue to demonstrate the quality and benefits they offer, and they are flourishing under the extra attention.

Meanwhile, providers are increasingly embracing the technology, recognizing the benefits offered by various applications. Examples include:

  • Telepharmacy, which helps process orders and free up time for on-site pharmacists to get involved in patient care, and
  • Telestroke where specialists provide consults from a remote location that would otherwise not have access to their clinical expertise.

A balanced equation

As the health care industry searches for ways to save financially, while continuing to improve the quality of care, new technologies are going to be an essential part of the equation. The telemedicine industry promises to straddle this line – helping providers improve care and access, while also reducing costs. With the additional scrutiny separating proven solutions from the pack, we will see less skepticism, better results, and faster adoption.

Kevin Jones, RPh, MBA, is VP of Pharmacy Services at PipelineRx. He has over 25 years of experience as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager in the hospital, institutional and home care settings, including serving as Director of Pharmacy at Denver Health Medical Center.