Telehealth has been around for some time but has only slowly impacted actual physical and behavioral health care. Texas, the last state to authorize the use of telehealth without a physical visit to a doctor, is awaiting the governor’s signature on a bill that gets rid of this self-centered professional requirement.
Some advantages are obvious:
- You don’t have to travel for 4 hours to a full day to reach the clinic.
- You don’t have to sit in a waiting room for 1-2 hours when you are on time for your appointment.
- Routine monitoring can be done when needed instead of making scheduling and coordination of patient visits more complex.
- Some types of specialist care don’t have to require a flight, a hotel, meals, a week off, and the delays that seem to always occur in medicine.
But, because of the extreme difficulty in authorizing its use at the state, regional, and provider level, it has been very, very, VERY slow in becoming a usable reality.
One problem is that our health care system is geared toward the use of technology as part of an evidenced based procedure and any use outside that evidenced based procedure is seen as creating a liability for the provider. So ANY new technology use that isn’t part of the evidenced based cartel model is viewed with suspicion. Phones are an exception and people are becoming comfortable with texting, but only for things that are not really medical like scheduling.
This is unfortunate, since telehealth is one of the few uses of technology that could credibily reduce medical costs while dramatically increasing the convenience for users of physical and behavioral health systems (read the time of their lives) by making the logistics of many routine and not so routine health and behavioral supports much simpler.
Because the implementation of telehealth is focused on getting past the threshold of justifying its use for any medical outcome, there is no real strategy for the use of telehealth. Telehealth should be used for a wide variety of possibilities and used as simply as the phone is used. It should become a standard part of care and supports procedures and be used as needed in the practical demands on everyday care.