Telemedicine has been used by hospitals and health systems for well over a decade now. With the widespread adoption of Electronic Medical Records, physicians are becoming more comfortable utilizing technology in order to better deliver care to their patients. While the use of technology in medicine had often been viewed through the lens of providing more and/or better care, this same technology can also be viewed as helping to ease the effects of the physician shortage in many areas and specialties. This can be seen most in the adoption of telemedicine, and it’s use can help ease the stress on physician recruitment in times of physician shortage in the three following ways:
1. Specialist Access on Demand
The list of specialists where demand has outpaced supply is long and daunting. From Dermatologists to Oncologists, many specialists often find that they have their choice of practice type, size, and location when it comes to finding an opportunity. While this is excellent for the physicians themselves, it can take a toll of specialty recruitment, especially in rural or less attractive locations.
While this shortage particular impacts areas where physicians have always been in short supply in the past, the use of technology can provide patients with the access to specialists at nearby hospitals, without have to drive hours to see the nearest one. By being able to diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients who are hours away, patients can see specialists they would have not had access to in the past.
2. Ease the Burden on Rural Physicians
The image of the Rural Physician of days gone by covering both their own office while also rounding on ill patients in a hospital over ten miles away is firmly ingrained in how most individuals see Rural Medicine. While it is true that this is an option in many places for physicians seeking that practice style, telemedicine is now enabling Rural Physicians to acheive a healthy work-life balance.
Additionally, the availability of specialists via telemedicine can allow Rural Primary Care Physicians to widen their scope of practice and provide their patients with specialty consults in real time. This can make Rural practice opportunities more attractive to potential candidates, allowing physician recruiters to attract qualified candidates to areas that traditionally had a shortage of physicians.
3. Managing Patients with Chronic Diseases
As the American population continues to age, many will develop and live with chronic deseases, all of which require regular monitoring and treatment. By using technological advances in healthcare, patients can monitor and help manage their own chronic conditions, reducing readmission rates and improving outcomes. By doing this instead of having patients only call or come in to the ER when they’re feeling ill, a physician will have more time to treat a larger patient panel more efficiently, reducing the need to hire more providers immediately.
By taking full advantage of the value that telemedicine can add to a group or practice, health systems and hospitals can more effectively and efficiently treat patients while easing the stress placed on recruiting additional providers, especially specialists to remote areas. Additionally, the use of technology to deliver care to patients can aid in recruiting those needed physicians to underserved areas. The access to specialists, the improved work-life balance, and the increased capabilities it provides them with, can all lead to physicians viewing these opportunities as excellent practice options.