Telemedicine is growing and consult volumes are surging, so why does it feel weird to celebrate?
For a telemedicine company, both are excellent news, but I can’t help but feel like it’s an odd thing to celebrate. In a way, it feels like we’re celebrating other people’s pain and sorrow. After all, when you consider the fact that doctors typically treat patients at some of their lowest moments and during times when they desperately need care, it makes celebrating growth and volume surges a sad proposition.
But I know that’s not the right way to look at this.
After 8 years of working in telemedicine, I realize more and more that the patients who seek out telemedicine are in ongoing mental and physical pain. Regardless of what healthcare decides to do, VirtualMed Staff and the telemedicine industry have the ability (and responsibility) to provide a significant, expedient, and a reliable solution to ease the pain of patients across the entire healthcare spectrum. Isn’t that a reason to celebrate?
Telemedicine is a cause worth celebrating
Knowing that someone received the care they need because a team of connected strangers came together to provide a doctor, where there otherwise wouldn’t have been one is an extremely gratifying feeling. It reminds me of a story I recently heard from one of our remote physicians at VirtualMed Staff.
Over the weekend, an adolescent patient came in for a telemedicine consultation. As the physician conducted the consultation, they knew something more serious was affecting the patient and recommended that the child immediately receive a CT scan. As it turns out, because of the physician’s recommendation to the hospital team, they found the child was also suffering from a severe brain bleed. The telemedicine consultation and physician’s recommendation likely saved the patient from further life-threating complications.
That’s a cause worth celebrating.
The ripple effect of telemedicine
The ability to have a specialist, who otherwise wouldn’t have been available, care for patients has such a profound ripple effect. Not only on the patient, but on the families and the communities they come from. The community benefit alone is enough to show what good can come from telemedicine. We hear so many stories like the one above from our clients and physicians that really demonstrate the impact of the care VirtualMed Staff provides. When I hear these stories, I’m always curious about the effect that short but timely interaction with a remote specialist had on everyone involved. What was the ripple effect? Who all was impacted? It always makes me smile, especially considering what the alternative could have been.
Having the access to see a doctor who can rapidly and efficiently start the process of making someone feel better is the why of telemedicine, but the who, when, and how is the problem. How do we get the attention of healthcare leaders to guarantee that patients feel heard, seen, and treated?
How do we engage these leaders to see the long-term view of telemedicine?
The long-term view of telemedicine
Being in telemedicine as long as I have affords me a long-term view inside the healthcare industry that both excites and frustrates me. A large percentage of the work that VirtualMed Staff does focuses on emergent behavioral healthcare, and clients continue to tell us that their patients’ healthcare issues are more complicated than most emergency departments (ED) can effectively handle without the intervention of a specialist.
Additionally, these cases are part of an overwhelming list of healthcare issues that provide a level of complication that most busy emergency physicians don’t have the time or training to effectively help. Couple these exacerbated conditions with an overwhelmed community behavioral health system and you end up with an alarming amount of violence, number of readmissions, and chronic frequent flyers.
The healthcare system isn’t broken, it just needs remodeling. Doctors still have an overwhelming desire to help and do work, but the world is changing rapidly and requires on-time care and treatment to solve the issue, not just identify, sedate, and kick the proverbial can further down the road.
Telemedicine continues to evolve ahead of the curve of the healthcare system and will continue to require innovated, open-minded thinkers with a heart for service and a mind for care delivery. It is not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Telemedicine will continue to fight an uphill battle against the old way of doing things, and as the world evolves, healthcare will be pushed to include telemedicine in all parts of their operations. Just because that’s the way we always did it, doesn’t mean it’s a good reason to keep doing it that way.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Without a goal, you can’t score.” I think we know what the goal is, and the time to score is now.