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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Healthcare change is certain. “Rolling care” may be the solution.

By Mitchell Wilson, M.D., chief medical officer, Eagle Hospital Physicians

There’s no profession changing more than health care. Physicians know it, as do hospitals. And before you know it, patients will face the same reality.

When it comes to reimbursement, reporting and paperwork—and the critical element of personal patient care—there’s no telling how overwhelming it will be.  So what can we do as an industry to expedite care, ensure quality and extend collaboration among physicians, nurses, case managers and patients?

Here’s how:

Think roaming physicians wheeling from the emergency room to intensive care. Think broadband, wireless, flat screens and high-res cameras that rotate, move side to side, and introduce medical specialists--such as internists--to hospital-based physicians and support teams. In essence, telemedicine.

Telemedicine has been around for almost two decades, in some form or fashion. Its evolution is profound, especially in health care. Costs have dwindled, processes created and interaction between tech and tried-and-true medical experts are virtually seamless.

And, ideally, it can save lives, expedite specialist care, and give rural hospitals quick access to an internist, cardiologist or other specialties that aren’t in close proximity. With a “dial of a phone,” the cardiologist is in the room with another physician or allied health professional, looking at patient conditions, and getting a report of symptoms and problems. The on-the-screen doctor and on-site medical experts collaborate. One is the specialist; the others are the hands, eyes and real-time doers.

 And costs, now and in the future? It appears reimbursement is a moot issue. Telemedicine is seen as a quality service, with re-payment as likely as on-site health care services.

What about the patient? Will he or she face fright or concerns about quality medical care? Certainly it may take some getting used to, but any patient anywhere who faces emergency needs—or any medical care where a specialist isn’t available—will find the experience worth every minute.

The Eagle approach to telemedicine—and overall—is to help docs—including hospitalists—and their hospital counterparts to offer effective care. We introduce them to telemedicine’s ease of use and other patients. And yes, we share its value to the patients finding these atypical machines sitting at their bedside.

Telemedicine is a medical-care option that just may lessen the impact of health care changes and reform. It saves lives and delivers immediate medical specialists to the patient’s bedside.