Telemedicine on Par with In-person Visits

It won’t replace the ER anytime soon, and would likely not make a very compelling television series, but telemedicine is offering a little digital drama of its own at a hospital in Barcelona. A five-year study recently found that patients who replace some doctor visits with virtual visits fared just as well as if they had made all the visits in person. Perhaps even more suggestive of telemedicine’s potential, the study found that patient-doctor communication improved via electronic communication.

The study by Hospital Clinic of Barcelona followed 200 HIV patients who were enrolled in its “Hospital VIHrtual” telemedicine program and consulted with their doctors from home using a videoconferencing link.

The study concluded that, “The virtual hospital allows comprehensive control over the patient in medical, pharmaceutical, psychological and quality of life aspects. The results are as satisfactory as those obtained in a visit at the hospital.” Patients reported improved access to their clinical data and substantial savings in time and money due to fewer trips to see their physicians.

The hospital and doctors were able to deliver care via telemedicine at times that were convenient for both the doctors and patients, while in-person visits were reduced by about half, according to the hospital.

Ed. Note: How many doctors do you know who are ready for primetime?

The Barcelona telemedicine program, which is similar to a number of programs now underway in the U.S. and other countries, throws the spotlight on an array of Literacy 2.0 skills that will be needed by both doctors and patients as the practice grows more widespread.

Doctors will need media skills that allow them to not only use the technology effectively, but also project their bedside manner onto the screen. As any television actor knows, little things such as looking at the camera, not blinking excessively and holding your head at the right angle can make a big difference in the impact of a video communication. Camera close-ups often reveal subtleties of expression that would be missed in a face-to-face conversation. Vocal quality and enunciation can also be more important on screen than in person.

Similarly, since the doctors are not in the room with them, patients will need to be adept at getting the message across about how they are feeling and what their concerns are. There will be fewer cues, such as body language or subtle changes in skin color, for the doctors to pick up on.

Videoconferencing has been touted as the next great thing for years. For various technical, financial and behavioral reasons it is only just now coming into its own. As evidenced by smartphones with front and rear facing cameras, and by those little lenses on top of most new laptops, video calling and conferencing will soon, very soon, be as commonplace as voice calls.

Your personal telegenic talents will not only aid you socially and in business, they may one day save your life.


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