Telemedicine Expands Reach of Small Physician Practices

Small practice primary care and specialist providers are expanding their telemedicine capabilities and options for patients, according to an article in FierceHealthcare. Seeing patients remotely also benefits providers—who can keep revenue that might otherwise be diverted to other telemedicine providers, as well as attract patients from a wider area, according to the article.

For example, a pediatric provider in Columbia, MD decided to begin offering telemedicine services to their patients that were enrolled in Howard County schools, according to the article. The school nurse uses digital equipment to check the student’s temperature and blood pressure, and the visits last about 10 minutes on average. The nurse is also able to send views of the student’s eyes and ears to the doctor.

The practice also uses another platform to do remote lactation consulting with patients at home, and is looking to expand that offering for behavioral health follow-ups as well.

Telemedicine can also help practices expand their specialized services offerings, as in the case of Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC). GGC had taken to having geneticists from their other locations drive the hours-long trip to their remote Florence, SC location to see patients. Now, GGC is able to offer telemedicine visits twice a month for patients at this location—and they’re looking to expand their telemedicine offerings even further. “We have a telemedicine coordinator looking to set up in other locations like the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs or local doctors’ clinics,” said Mike Lyons, MD, co-director of clinical services and head of the telehealth initiative for GGC, in the FierceHealthcare article.

Because GGC employs the majority of South Carolina’s geneticists, expanded telemedicine offerings will also benefit South Carolina residents by increasing the availability of genetic counseling. “Genetic counseling is very well suited to telemedicine,” Lyons told FierceHealthcare. “We can share our screen and show patients their lab results and images of chromosomes. With a coordinator in Florence, I can see eyes, ears and feet to determine if there are differences that would suggest an underlying genetic disorder.”

The feedback has been positive, with 90 percent of patients saying that they would use telemedicine services again, though challenges such as slow connections and frozen screens were an obstacle in the beginning of the program. The problems have since been fixed by new software, Lyons told FierceHealthcare.

Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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