Telemedicine a Valuable Way to Deliver Healthcare

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dr. Rehman

Rabia Rehman, MD

Patients who live far from medical facilities benefit from having “virtual” conversations with their doctors and are comfortable with that arrangement, according to a study presented this morning during the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 21st Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress.

The results were discussed by Rabia Rehman, MD, endocrinology fellow at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, in a presentation titled “Tele-Endocrinology: Bridging the Gap in Endocrine Care Via Telemedicine.

While telemedicine is not a new concept, data continues to suggest that such programs are not only clinically effective, but also cost-effective. The topic was of particular interest during the conference because diabetes is approximately 17% more prevalent in rural areas compared to urban centers, the AACE said in a statement.

For their study, Rehman and her colleagues set up a “virtual examination room” in the office of a clinical endocrinologist in an urban center so that the physician would be able to have virtual, face-to-face communications with patients in rural areas. A nurse at the physical location of each patient assisted with communication and physical examinations. A total of 66 patients were examined in this manner over the course of 2.5 years.

According to Rehman, “progress was shown to occur in the condition of a majority of the patients where follow-up data was available, including a significant improvement in the health of Type 2 diabetes patients.” Moreover, 97% of the patients were comfortable with the telemedicine examination and found value in this type of healthcare delivery.

The research team did not collect any data on the cost of setting up a virtual examination room, but Rehman said she believes physicians will find that the cost of equipment such as television monitors, an Internet connect, and audio/video equipment will be “far outweighed by the benefit of reaching many patients who might not otherwise have been seen by a specialist.” In the long term, she said, cost savings are likely to be significant for both patients and providers.

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