Telehealth: How it may be the most breakthrough innovation of 2017
No patient wants to consider that the physician caring for them might be just as prone to error as any other professional, but the data says the patient has great cause for concern. Although trust is key in the physician-patient relationship, Johns Hopkins reported in 2016 that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Medical errors are responsible for 250,000 deaths each year in the United States. Whether these deaths occur as a result of inappropriate or incorrect prescriptions, misdiagnosis, or even surgical errors, the results are tragic. Every hospital in the country is trying to correct the problem, but so far, the results haven’t been very promising.
So where does that leave telehealth? After all, if a doctor is interacting with a patient through a webcam rather than in person, shouldn’t the doctor make more mistakes? The data says, very clearly: no. Instead, doctors tend to take more time with each patient, ask more questions, and make fewer mistakes. Furthermore, telehealth means physicians are connected with other physicians remotely and are thus able to pool their knowledge.
Previous studies have shown that telemedicine decreases the cost of medical care, increases continuity of care, and improves clinical outcomes overall, and now we see that telemedicine also significantly decreases the rate of physician error.
What can you as a patient look for when you are trying to figure out whether you are receiving care that is likely to lead to errors? We’ve created a short checklist to help you make that determination.
- Does the website verify your identity? Could you get away with using a fake name if you tried? If so, steer clear.
- Does the website allow you to choose your physician? Be wary of sites that randomly assign you a doctor; you should be allowed to choose from several.
- Is the doctor licensed in your state? Medical laws and insurance rules vary from state to state. It’s crucial that the physician with whom you are connected is currently licensed in your state of residence. If you aren’t allowed to choose a locally-licensed doctor, or if the status of your physician is withheld from you, choose another telehealth provider.
- Does the doctor ask you about your medical history? Although it might seem like you are dealing with a simple earache or headache, the doctor still needs to ask about your medical history and listen attentively. If either of these key components are lacking, look for a doctor elsewhere.
- Can you have records sent to your primary care physician? If the physician you’re seeing balks at sending records of your online visit to your primary care provider, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t like the reason why. Be very wary of trusting this diagnosis.
The rules for trusting an online doctor aren’t very different from those you’d use to select a physician in real life, but you must exercise more caution in telemedicine settings. Remember, Online Doctor Visit is committed to patient safety. If you try out this checklist on us, you’re sure to be impressed.