Chronically painful back? Need a physician? With telemedicine, it’s simply a matter of “Beam me up, Scottie.” “We can now transport a patient to the doctor’s office literally in seconds via computer or smart phone app,” says Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, world renowned endoscopic spine surgeon, who is introducing telemedicine technology at the Atlantic Spine Center, which he founded and where he serves as medical director.
“The benefits of this technology for patients are convenience and more effective care with improved clinical outcomes,” Dr. Liu says, referring to results of several telemedicine studies and surveys.
Telemedicine uses high-speed Internet with computer, tablet and mobile phone video technology to give patients immediate electronic connections to care providers. For patients suffering from chronic pain, including the many back and spine patients under care of the Atlantic Spine Center, being able to “see” a physician using Skype-like technology from the comfort of their own homes and avoid the traffic, travel times represents a true “plus,” Dr. Liu says.
Also, studies have shown that the technology lowers hospital admissions, enhances patient compliance and reduces overall health care costs – reasons why more and more health insurance companies, including Medicare to some degree and Medicaid, are offering coverage for electronic provider visits, Dr. Liu indicates.
“Many states have passed laws requiring third-party payers to cover telemedicine doctor ‘visits’ because, in many instances, the technology is proving more efficient and effective in care delivery than more traditional approaches,” Dr. Liu adds. In fact, C2 Solutions, an employee benefits consulting firm, reports that 75 percent of all patient visits to doctors’ offices, urgent care center or hospital emergency departments can be classified as either unnecessary or readily manageable by video, phone or app.
Dr. Liu’s comments come on the heels of the latest telehealth research, results of which were announced in January 2019, suggesting that telemedicine technology and app use seem to enhance patients’ satisfaction with their postoperative care and quality of life in comparison to patients undergoing standard-of-care treatment. All patients evaluated for the study had undergone vascular surgery.
An earlier study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, determined that patients who received “telephone-delivered intervention,” with automated symptom monitoring, for chronic musculoskeletal pain, including back pain, experienced more “clinically meaningful” improvement of their pain, as well as a greater rates of improvement than patients using more traditional venues for receiving health care. “That’s one of the clear advantages of telemedicine technology for both patient and physician,” Dr. Liu. “The patient with chronic pain can reach a doctor quickly, and we, as providers, are then better able to manage and direct treatment in real time.”
Lower back pain is the driver for an estimated 2.6 million visits annually to hospital emergency departments, where care is costly and not always provided in ways recommended for back pain, Dr. Liu adds. “Telemedicine uses encrypted data and is secure and private. It also can be used by providers for remote monitoring and management of chronic conditions, including back pain, hypertension and diabetes,” Dr. Liu emphasizes. Equally important, the immediate provider links that telemedicine technology offers can be a godsend for patients who live in rural areas where physical access to hospitals and doctors’ offices is severely limited, Dr. Liu says.
For anyone still debating whether telemedicine could be a venue for accessing care, Dr. Liu lists these advantages of the technology:
- Quick connection to a provider when immediate health care assistance is required.
- Easy access to specialists
- No time taken from work to travel for an appointment.
- No time spent waiting for the doctor in an office filled with other ill patients
- Less cost than turning to an urgent care center or a hospital emergency department for assistance.
Better health management and outcomes for many kinds of health problems, including chronic pain management.
If you would like more information on how to schedule a telemedicine visit with Atlantic Spine Center, please feel free to chat, call or fill out our contact form.