Telemedicine the answer to physician shortage and cost cutting?

With growing concerns about a healthcare workforce shortage and rising costs, hospitals and health systems are exploring ways to get providers and curb expenses. Telemedicine might be one solution, according to an article in RT: For Decision-Makers in Respiratory Care.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) represents 78 percent of the healthcare costs associated with treatment for chronic lung disease, according to the article. As national initiatives target chronic conditions, telemedicine could transform the way medicine is practiced, notes RT.

Telemedicine may allow isolated, rural hospitals to gain access to other resources.

For example, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that rural hospitals have poorer outcomes, with patients having a 30 to 70 percent higher risk of dying from heart attack, congestive heart failure, or pneumonia.

Telemedicine might offer greater access to specialists in a timely manner, according to the article.

In addition, it might answer the workforce shortage problem.

"There is currently, and will remain until about the year 2030, a shortage of health care workers to meet the demand for care. This warrants a change in the delivery of health care and may indeed alter the way individuals and populations receive health care," states the article.

In May, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services adjusted its rules so that the privileges of telemedicine physicians and other providers be recognized at other hospitals, eliminating what was once a privileging barrier that limited providers to hospitals that each had to conduct its own privileging process.

One argument against telemedicine initiatives is that the practice removes direct physician-patient care.

"Don't be misled; telemedicine does not seek to remove the human element of care, but rather to be available more often than providers can afford in face of an ever-increasing demand for care. As an industry, health care and its providers need to embrace change that could ultimately improve patient access and patient security," states the article. 

For more:
- read the article

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