See Your Doctor Online and Avoid the Waiting Room

By Ryan D Holzmacher

One of the worst things about going to see the doctor is a 15 minute appointment really means half the day. By the time you drive there, check in and wait for who knows how long, you could have accomplished many other tasks. In a world of fast paced technology and on demand services, the field of medicine has lagged behind. Most people now use smart phones and pads to accomplish everything from shopping to bill paying. The days of waiting in line are becoming a thing of the past. This demand from people to have easy access to whatever services they want has so far not been incorporated into medical models.

As you are aware there have been great advances in the field of medicine. It is often thought that technology has exceeded what the doctors can even do with it. This has been true for medical advancements include radiology, surgical and oncology technology but has not included information technology. Although the electronic medical record (i.e. not using paper charts and putting all of your information in computer based software) has been around for some time, many physicians have been reluctant to use it. It took a recent incentive from the federal government and new compliance rules to finally convince most all medical offices to convert over.

With the acceptance of the electronic medical record, it has opened the door to medical practices for all the other computer based technologies that are available. A great many medical clinics now have informative web sites. Your doctor may even have a Facebook page. There is now integration of other software based systems such as radiology, coding/billing, laboratory and more easily synced into your electronic health record. So why can’t it be easier to see the doctor? The electronic medical record has sped things up. Doctors can easily pull up your record at an office visit and view everything from your labs, x-rays and other office notes from specialists. This saves time (and money) instead of looking around for this info at your appointment.

Very recently some medical companies have taken the next logical step in seeing a doctor. The answer is not to have to go to the office. The field of telemedicine is now emerging. Although not a new idea it is finally taken hold given the ease to which it can be integrated into your electronic medical record. The idea is that you would be able to “teleconference” with your doctor either by video streaming or telephone. Although telephone calls don’t seem innovative they are in the sense that it becomes a part of your record and considered an “office visit.” The idea behind telemedicine services is to provide quick access and care to a doctor for straight forward medical conditions that really don’t need to be seen in the office. This frees up time for the doctor to spend with sicker patients in person and most importantly for you to spend doing something else.

Telemedicine is in its infancy. Doctors are still lagging behind integrating it into most practices. Like anything, however, it will catch on and is predicted to be the future of medicine. Some companies now offer services for colds and other minor complaints. Perhaps the most utilized is the field of pain management. The treatment of pain is unique in that the patient often requires monthly office visits for their treatment. Many months they are stable with little to no changes. This scenario lends itself perfectly to online pain management. Visits can happen at the pain specialist office one to four times per year with the rest being done via telemedicine. Pain management doctors can use this technology to spend more time with new and sicker patients. Online pain management may be the model for how other physicians integrate telemedicine into their practices.

Although still in its infancy, telemedicine is the next wave of information technology to be integrated into your physician’s medical practice. For those with chronic pain, online pain management is already more available. Consumer demand for easier access to services using technologies such as smart phone and think pads will become the driving force for medical practices to integrate this form of patient visit into their own practice.

Dr. Holzmacher is a triple board certified medical doctor practicing in pain management

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