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How telemedicine can be improved to better capitalize on efficiencies

While the technology is maturing, there are still quality gaps that can be achieved by tweaking the process.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

It's commonly accepted by now that telemedicine holds the potential to improve both access for patients and efficiency for providers. But as with any emergent technology, it isn't perfect.

Occasionally, patients receive care that isn't quite on par with what they would get face-to-face in terms of quality and consistency. Speaking at HIMSS19 on Tuesday, Dr. Soheil Saadat expressed a desire to change all that.

Saadat is the founder and CEO of GenieMD, which seeks to use technology to standardize telemedicine encounters and make it easier for both patients and providers to tap into its potential.

"For physicians, you are looking at increased efficiency, more patients and of course increased income," said Saadat, "and this is all with the hopes of decreasing costs. But this has to happen in the context of people having the same level of care as in a face-to-face visit."

In his way of thinking, one of the best ways for telemedicine to be effective is to prompt clinicians to ask the right questions of the patient. Doctors, said Saadat, are humans like the rest of us and make mistakes. Computers don't. 

So using evidence-based guidelines, technology leaders can design protocols in such a way as to ask the right questions consistently, such as whether a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, or what a child's weight is in order to prescribe the right antibiotics.

"As far as the clinician is concerned, we want to make them efficient," said Saadat. "When prescribing medication, for example, they should know what the interaction is with other medications. We can also reduce documentation time by putting unstructured data into the EHR."

One of the ways efficiency can be achieved through telemedicine is to alert a handful of doctors, Uber-style, that a patient is seeking a consult. The first available doctor can take the call. More mundane conditions can also be referred to nurse practitioners.

Follow-up is another area in which efficiencies can be achieved, and through the GenieMD platform, physicians can do an on-demand follow-up call with patients.

"It's not an episodic encounter where you never see the patient again," said Saadat.

HIMSS19 Coverage

An inside look at the innovation, education, technology, networking and key events at the HIMSS19 global conference in Orlando.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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