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The Telemedicine Revolution That Still Hasn't Come

Health care advice can often be given through video or teleconferencing, which saves a great deal of time and money, but most patients still aren't eager to do it.
October 13, 2016, 2pm PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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More and more employers, hoping to offer attractive benefits and save money, now have telemedicine plans. These allow patients to consult a doctor over the phone or through a video conference without the expense or trouble of meeting the doctor in person. For common issues like strep throat, a patient might get a diagnosis, prescription, and start treatment much more quickly using telemedicine than going through the traditional face-to-face interaction. So why aren't teledocs more popular?

According to a Chicago Tribune article by Lisa Schencker, it's not because employers aren't interested. They can see the potential, "If it catches on broadly with consumers, telemedicine could change the face of health care, altering the relationship between doctors and patients seeking relief from common maladies." Perhaps, more importantly, they can see the potential savings. A healthier workforce is more productive and if employees use telemedicine, there are potential savings over in-person visits.

Schencker points out some of the reasons patients are being slow to adopt telemedice, "a lack of awareness, though, may not be the only obstacle for companies to overcome. Employees may wonder whether a doctor can accurately diagnose them without seeing them in person."

In the same way that telecommuting didn't live up to the hype, this seems to be another example of experts underestimating the importance of where we live and the persistence of our need for in-person services in medicine and all fields of human endeavor. Thomas Friedman's Flat World seems to be getting increasingly spikey.

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Published on Friday, October 7, 2016 in Chicago Tribune
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