OPEN OR CLOSED?
Is your door open, closed, or somewhere in between?
Telehealth and Telemedicine can be intimidating, scary, exciting, and to some completely absurd. Some close the door, and think, absolutely not, we cannot see patients and communicate with other providers through a screen.
I was recently at a conference, and a few ladies in the psychiatry field came up and nodded and smiled, and said “Oh, telehealth, we’ve talked about this topic at our clinic.” I followed up with, “Are you currently using telehealth?” They both smirked and responded with “No, our professor that practices psychiatry is completely against it and says "Who would want to talk to a patient through a screen?" It’s so impersonal and to think we can help patients without them walking through our door is nonsense!” Others are ready to jump in head first, recognizing the advantages of increasing access to care, changing the way we do medicine and treat patients, and wanting to maximize what technology has to offer.
For 15 years, my job involved communicating with others over the phone or through video sessions. It took some time to feel comfortable with it, but once you do it a few times and build that same rapport and connection, you can have the same impact as in person communication. In addition to being for or against telehealth comes a whole slew of other questions, thoughts, and concerns including all the newness of coding, billing, privacy laws, record storing, and on and on.
So, where do we go from here?
Educating and creating awareness in the medical field and for patients on telehealth starting with 101, and then moving into more in depth questions is the first step. Think about nutrition and healthy foods in schools. Michele Obama started the Let’s Move Initiative changing school lunches to whole grain pizzas, white milk, lower sodium and sugar foods, whole fruits and more overall balanced choices. The reaction: Parents were outraged. “My kids do not like the pizza anymore!” “ “What kid will drink milk without added sugar?” “Do you see how much waste is occurring because kids will not begin to eat these new foods?”
Change is hard and makes us feel vulnerable, helpless, and sometimes inadequate. We love what we know. If we get used to doing something for years and years, change can be scary. So, in the nutrition scenario, most parents and people as a whole would agree that if they had the opportunity and access to eat whole, fresh, nutritious foods; they would choose this over a box of juice rather than an apple or a meal with hundreds of nutrients rather than empty calories that make us feel sluggish and cranky. We know it’s good for our brains, our bodies, as well as short and long term health.
Change takes time. Yes, maybe more food is wasted in the short term and more kids are whining about the change in the menu. However, over time, it just becomes the norm and you don’t question it. New generations of kids that come in starting to eat this food in kindergarten would not know any different.
So, flipping back to telehealth. I believe it’s going to be a transition, but that its here to stay and the wave of the future. Health care today will be seen and delivered in new ways we cannot even dream up today with the speed of technology.
Hang tight, and at least crack the door and learn a little more about telehealth and telemedicine and all the advances and advantages that come with it.