Fight for your Right to Telemedicine

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I have a looming OOO meeting coming up… with my doctor. Every year I have to take two hours out of my work day to travel to his office, sit next to truly sick people and wait to see him so that he can renew my prescription that hasn’t changed for over a decade. While I find it a waste of my time, I really think it is an even bigger waste of his time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He is warm, kind and great at his practice. I want to have annual check ins with him. I want to talk to him about how I’ve been doing and if there are any concerns. I want him to evaluate whether or not I need an in-person visit, keep a record of our talk and renew my prescription. I also want to pay at the time of service so I don’t receive any surprise bills three months from now. What I don’t want is the stress and commitment—both time and financial—it takes for a 10-minute chat.

I know what I want exists in telemedicine, so why can’t I get it? As former Senator Bill Frist stated at a fireside chat here at Cambia Grove last month, “…this part of the country sings in telemedicine.” If that statement is true, which I do believe, why isn’t telemedicine already a standard practice? Why aren’t our wellness devices syncing with our doctor’s EHR? I talked with telemedicine experts Brodie Dychinco, General Manager of Convenient Care Delivery for Cambia, and Jesse Southworth, Director of Provider Data Excellence for Regence, about current barriers.

“Medicine is old school and slow to change. Care modality changes either have to be incentivized or integrated into the educational system,” said Southworth.

“There’s a big awareness challenge,” Dychinco added. “The general public is aware of the technology, but they don’t really connect that technology to something that is accessible to them.” Many people already have it included in their insurance coverage, they just don’t realize it. He also stated that “A pretty prevalent practical issue that people generally don’t really think about is the access to high quality broadband service and internet.”

In “Health Policy Brief: Telehealth Parity Laws,” author Tony Yang from George Mason University describes provider pushback as a barrier to the advancement of telemedicine. He addresses concern about the lack of relationship between patient and provider, lack of access to a patient’s medical records and “unresolved questions around reimbursement.”

A reliable internet connection is an important social determinant of health that needs to be addressed. But I digress…

What can entrepreneurs do to overcome these barriers? Can we create a better provider/patient relationship in a virtual world? I know there is movement on FHIR and blockchain in health care. Are there other opportunities to share EHRs? How can we make sure everyone is getting paid?

What can we, as patients, do to move the needle toward establishing telemedicine as the way we see a doctor? “Ask for it. Demand it. And most importantly…use it whenever possible!” Southworth says. “Use, demand and payment will drive change.”

Patients can flex their muscle as consumers and influence this experience. We need to ask physicians to provide telemedicine in their practice and to ask employers to make sure telemedicine is covered in the plan they choose from their insurance broker.

Telemedicine is here! Let’s break down barriers and take advantage of its cost-effective convenience!

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