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Are Doctors Ready for Virtual Visits?

Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:18am
Pauline W. Chen, M.D.

For over a decade now, health care experts have been promoting telemedicine, or the use of satellite technology, video conferencing and data transfer through phones and the Internet, to connect doctors to patients in far-flung locales. But are doctors ready for this form of technology?

Telemedicine has the potential to improve quality of care by allowing clinicians in one “control center” to monitor, consult and even care for and perform procedures on patients in multiple locations. A rural primary care practitioner who sees a patient with a rare skin lesion, for example, can get expert consultation from a dermatologist at a center hundreds of miles away. A hospital unable to staff its intensive care unit with a single critical care specialist can have several experts monitoring their patients remotely 24 hours a day.

But despite its promise, telemedicine has failed to take hold in the same way that other, newer, technologies have. Not because of technical challenges, expense or insufficient need. On the contrary, the most daunting obstacle to date has been a deeply entrenched resistance on the part of providers.

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