The digital tools transforming specialist scope of practice

Medical specialists are taking advantage of telehealth tools and digital health records to transform their practice and offer better care to patients.

From dermatologists to rheumatologists and orthopaedic surgeons, modern technologies are enhancing the efficiency of specialist medical practice for a range of different specialities and helping it become more patient-centric.
Telemedicine allows surgical specialists to be compensated for follow up and post-op appointments

Surgeons are loving telemedicine thanks to the extra compensation it provides. Most surgeons, after the standard post-operation care has been completed are not compensated for post-operative consultations with patients. If a patient is confused by their post-operation plan or has a concern about their healing, these consultations can drag out, leaving a consultant spending additional time with the patient unpaid.

Teleconference appointments allow a specialist to provide follow-up appointments with careful explanations of post-operation requirements for a small fee. Not only does this ensure the surgeon is paid, it can suit the patients better too. Patients may prefer an online appointment as it prevents the cost and fuss of travel, particularly when recovering from surgery. Plus, telehealth appointments are usually shorter than in-person visits, allowing a surgeon to conduct three times as many appointments in the same allotted time frame.

Teleconferencing can save specialist clinics money

Teleconferencing also ensures specialists are saved the frustration and financial losses associated with ‘no-shows.’ Video appointments have worked for The University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre who reported they save $84.64 every time a video appointment replaces an on-site visit. While this is partly due to telehealth’s ability to discourage ‘no-shows,’ it may also be in part due to the shorter appointment times usually required for telehealth appointments.

Telehealth provides specialists with more freedom and flexible work hours

Most medical consultants work across several locations, from clinics to hospitals and private rooms. Instead of staying for after-hours appointments, specialists can conduct teleconference appointments from home.

Telehealth means more free time for specialists too. Orthopaedic surgeons report post-op video visits usually last between three and five minutes, versus an in-patient visit which usually lasts 10-15 minutes. These shorter appointments, plus the elimination of travel time if a specialist is teleconferencing from home, allow the specialist more quality time with their family and friends.

Ehealth platforms offering other tools on top of telehealth

There are numerous platforms out there that offer video conferencing for telehealth, however, there are only a unique few that have other features to help bolster patient engagement. These extra features include simple website designs, built-in community engagement and online bookings. Not only does an all in one platform with these extra features help specialist clinics be more efficient with patient administration tasks, but the platform helps to create a professional, smoothly run specialist clinic, and helps patients feel engaged with specialist medical topics, ultimately leading to more bookings and client referrals.

Telehealth prevents patient frustration from long waiting times

97% of people become frustrated from long waiting times at the doctor, which can be common at very busy specialist clinics who regularly squeeze urgent patients into their diaries. Telehealth solves this problem, as telehealth appointments are usually shorter and can be done at a time that suits both parties, rather than being restricted to clinic hours.

Specialist doctors using digital health tools enhance their patient care

By combining a number of digital tools such as telehealth platforms and digital health records, specialists can enhance patient care. These tools:

1. Ease the burden of record keeping for patients

As a specialist working in a hospital, you know patients assume hospitals and clinics have access to their medication and medical history, but often this isn’t the case even within the same city. Digital health records allow you and the patient access to this information.

2. Make chronic disease management easier

Telehealth allows for remote patient monitoring for chronic illnesses, particularly for diseases that don’t necessarily require regular in-patient visits.

For example, a respiratory medicine consultant can monitor the spirometry results of their COPD patients through teleconference appointments, and the use of online health records. Not only has this shown to enhance compliance in treatment which subsequently boosts outcomes, it has been shown to increase patient confidence and satisfaction.

3. Allow end of life planning to become less stressful

End of life planning is an essential part of geriatric and palliative specialist care, and involves an important conversation with the patient. After documenting this information, the last thing the patient wants is to have the same conversation with a different specialist upon their next hospital admission. A shared digital health records prevent this duplication.

4. Provide specialists with immediate access to scans during online consults

Despite technological advances in many areas of medicine, some centres still give a CD and hard copy report to a patient after radiological or pathological exam to bring to their specialist. Instead of relying on this old-fashioned system, using a telemedicine hub allows a specialist to access a patient’s scan results during a video consultation.

5. Prevent the duplication of pathological and radiological testing

As a specialist, if you can’t find blood test information or the relevant reports you need, you will order more testing to help create your diagnosis and treatment plan. If the patient has recently had an x-ray, they won’t want to have to have another one just because the report can’t be located. Digital health records and secure messaging prevent duplicate testing, saving the patient time and money, and allowing the entire team of providers communicate.

From teleconferencing to digital health records and ehealth software, specialists can optimise the efficiency of their time, clinic and patient care by utilising digital health tools.

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