The telehealth revolution: Strengthening the doctor-patient relationship

My work in telehealth started about five years ago when the system was still quite primitive. Even back then, it was clear that the potential of telehealth was of tremendous value for patients, doctors, and healthcare teams, and it was only a matter of time before we would begin implementing this kind of care on mass scale.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has not only become available and accessible, but is basically a requirement. It provides a platform for doctors to take care of their patients without putting them at unnecessary risk.

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The past five years have been important for the entire industry to understand compliance platforms, and doctors and their patients are now able to have this valuable technology for face-to-face interaction.

Telehealth is revolutionary because of its potential to enhance the doctor-patient relationship. Patients often feel more like commodities rather than human beings in need of care. With frenetic, overloaded schedules, doctors can lose sight of the fact that when it comes down to it, we are here to provide care in the most efficient and effective way possible. Telehealth provides this unique space for nurturing and restoring the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, approximately 65% to 80% of pre-op and post-op visits on my service can now be handled digitally. This cuts out a lot of driving, parking, and waiting in line – in short, hassle. If we need to see a patient in the office, we can identify the issue digitally, bring them in, and rapidly deal with it.

Another benefit of telehealth for patients is that if they have been diagnosed with cancer at their local provider, they can upload the scans, tests, and biopsy results and then I can review those digitally. We then decide whether they need to be seen in person. It may sound trivial, but if you know anyone who has gone through a process of getting a second opinion, then you know it is no small feat. When a person is dealing with a serious illness, any travel or extra effort to get around can be taxing.

For example, if a patient is going to undergo a major surgery and wants a second opinion from an expert in our practice, they can reach out and we will provide it for them. We can see the person digitally and give them an idea of what they can expect before they make the long, physical journey to get here.

For those who see telehealth as scary and new – try to think of it as a feature that can make your life easier and create the opening for a better, more personalized relationship with your physician.

The last thing I will mention is the potential for doctors to “see” more patients in a day. If a doctor sees 25 patients with complex cancers in a clinic day, and half of them can be seen via a telehealth platform, then that opens up more space for patients to be seen and cared for – both online and in person.

Even if the number of patients in a clinic remains the same, telehealth certainly adds another dimension of personalized care that benefits everyone.

Additional Resources

Learn more about telehealth services at Baylor or call (713) 798-1000.

What is telemedicine?

-By Dr. Edward Reece, professor and chief of adult plastic surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine

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