Connecting with your physician during a medical emergency is reassuring and it’s getting easier to do as telemedicine becomes more prevalent in physician practices.

The advances in technology have led the medical community to think about alternative and effective ways to reach patients in need of medical advice.

Using telecommunication and information technologies provides clinical health care from a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services, particularly specialties, which might not be available otherwise.

As a private practice surgeon and ophthalmologist covering calls at five different hospitals, telemedicine is a tool that has not only enhanced my professional practice, but most importantly it has enhanced my patients’ experience.

For example, while seeing patients one day I received a call from the emergency department regarding a patient with an orbital fracture. The patient needed to be evaluated to determine if surgery was necessary.

I was texted a picture of the CT scan and had a quick video call with the patient. Within minutes, it was determined the patient could go home and follow-up with an office visit the next day.

That’s the beauty of telemedicine: the patient was able to get the emergent specialty care needed, the ER doctor could move on to his next patient, and the patients in my waiting room were only slightly inconvenienced with a minor delay rather than if I had to leave the office and have all of the appointments rescheduled.

This was the impetus for me to pursue creating HIPAA-compliant software to address the needs of the patients and the physicians using telemedicine.

Some might think that telemedicine is impersonal but the truth is, it is not; it does not replace the real interface with a physician. It does allow physicians to effectively triage, treat, and follow-up on certain conditions, but obviously not all illnesses can be safely treated over the phone or in a video call.

Patients need to understand it’s not a substitute for an office visit. If an assessment can’t accurately be made via telemedicine then the patient has to be seen in person.

Over 60 percent of healthcare systems are doing some part of telemedicine and it’s continuing to grow.

There are many dimensions to telemedicine. It can be used from one physician to another in consult with a patient, to communicate patient information efficiently between providers and staff and to communicate directly with a patient. Telemedicine is an enhancement for better patient care, and is the reality and the future of medicine.
Over my 10-plus years of practicing medicine, I’ve seen many advancements and this one is a win-win for everyone.