In an accompanying editorial, David A. Asch, MD, MBA, from the Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, says the savings potential for physicians, hospitals, and other providers is enormous with telemedicine. Time with patients can be shorter, and there is no check-in at a desk and no need to devote space to a waiting room. He notes that in some offices, "waiting rooms occupy nearly one half of usable space."
That is the real potential, he writes. "The innovation that telemedicine promises is not just doing the same thing remotely that used to be done face to face but awakening us to the many things that we thought required face-to-face contact but actually do not."
Among the telemedicine winners, he says, are those patients who are choosing not between in-office care and telemedicine, but between no care and telemedicine. Perhaps a region does not have a neurologist, or an emergency department cannot staff a full-time stroke specialist. Telemedicine grants patients access.
Other winners are patients who can eliminate the travel time, wait time, and parking fees of an in-office visit. Waiting can be done at home or at work where, presumably, they could get other things done at the same time. And some will not have to wait at all, such as patients with a rash, who can send an image to a dermatologist and get results remotely, says Dr Asch.
He points out that some payers worry that making care as convenient as taking a picture will mean people will seek care for things they would otherwise have ignored.