Cough. Cough. Who’s there? Telemedicine Makes a case for Medical Credentialing


The age of telemedicine has arrived. But, regulations are still catching up with technology. So when you tap on your screen to connect with a doctor you’ve never met, how do you know that you’re seeing a well-trained, qualified provider?

In 2014, telemedicine startups, like Doctors on Demand, saw a 130% increase in funding from the year before. And telemedicine isn’t only popular among the venture capitalists and the health tech-startup crowds. UnitedHealth just announced it is rolling out telemedicine programs that could expand the option of virtual doctor visits to as many as 2 millions Americans by January of 2016. Anthem and other insurance companies are also rolling out different telehealth services, such as Anthem’s LiveHealth Online for Medicare Advantage Users.

The on-demand economy that brought us Uber and TaskRabbit has finally reached healthcare.

With the advance of mobile technology, video chatting with your doctor is not a thing of the future. Patients can now reach a doctor from anywhere with their laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Doctors can diagnose a case pink eye and prescribe antibiotics, virtually. Telehealth services are not limited to primary care physicians; there are with new services that connect patients to all kinds of healthcare providers, including nutritionists, social workers and psychologists.

The benefit of telemedicine is immense. The mainstream acceptance of telemedicine has the potential to create real difference in the lives of so many people, and not just because telemedicine is more convenient. It can be healthier; who wants to sit in a waiting room full of other ill patients, where you could potentially give or get another contagion? Also more individuals will be able to access cost-effective medical care. Telemedicine will make it easier for historically underserved populations, such as rural and elderly populations, to access doctors. Telemedicine can amplify providers’ ability to provide patient-centered care on a large scale.

But there are a few really important questions for executives and consumers to ask: “Now that we can see a doctor with a single click of a button, how do we know who the provider is on the other side of the screen or telephone? Who is writing that e-prescription?”

While in brick-and-mortar medicine patients see and shake hands with the physician or healthcare practitioner caring for them, there is a greater need to build trust quickly via a screen. Virtual visits cannot – and should not – mean there is a compromise in quality and safety.

To ensure that telemedicine is as trustworthy as traditional medicine, a strict medical credentialing process must be maintained. As the telehealth sector grows, medical credentialing practices must be able to keep up with the increasing demand.  In the 2014 article “Click and the Doctor Will See You Now,” the author points out that telemedicine could not only increase the access to convenient and cost-effective healthcare, but could also increase risk of falling prey to virtual snake oil salesmen, who, with an official-sounding web address and white coat, could propagate false medical advice. It is clear: the increase of patients seeing doctors in new virtual venues increases the need for effective, efficient medical credentialing.

Physician credentialing ensures that patients can trust that their telemedicine provider has a current medical license, has the appropriate certifications and training, and has not been sanctioned by state or federal agencies. In other words, patients need to know that all their healthcare providers – whether they meet them in an office, hospital or via a computer screen – are vetted and held to the same rigorous professional standards. All patients need to be protected by strict credentialing standards, but especially telehealth patients, given that telehealth encounters are episodic and the physician behind the screen must be immediately trusted to write that prescription or to provide expert healthcare advice.

Furthermore, since multiple practitioner types are practicing telemedicine, it increases the need to ensure that their varying credentials, licenses and training are properly vetted by the organizations that employ them. Telemedicine companies cannot afford to compromise on the administrative costs and effort needed to ensure their practitioners are vetted, and continuously monitored so that they are representing a trustworthy and qualified provider network.

As telehealth platforms are deployed on a larger and larger scale, reaching a larger portion of the population, it is all the more reason that we need to have a medical credentialing process that is as efficient and effective as telemedicine.

Source: New feed

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