— Bryan Vartabedian (@Doctor_V) July 29, 2013
What a great tweet and insight into healthcare. Indeed, most people really underestimate what can be done face-to-face in healthcare. I first realized the value of this when a doctor visited my blog and described to me all of the things a doctor was observing in a face to face office visit. Everything from the way someone breathes, to the way someone sits, to the way someone coughs. It’s amazing how much data is available from just visually seeing the patient.
I agree that face-to-face is the best way to treat a patient. However, can an online video visit accomplish almost all of the upside of face-to-face interactions while minimizing any downsides? I think this is the challenge of telemedicine and something we’re making great strides in accomplishing. Of course it will never be as good as face-to-face, but I think it can get very close.
The other reason I’m a huge fan of the e-visit is that there’s a large percentage of visits where there’s no need for the visual part of the visit. Doctors know that much of the physical part of a patient visit is often just theatrics for the patient. The only reason we’re not doing more e-visits today is that doctors don’t get paid if they do e-visits. If they got paid they’d do many more with the same quality of care.
As we get more and more health sensors constantly tracking our health, we’ll need even less physical interaction to be seen by a doctor. For example, if I’ve been tracking my blood pressure twice a day at home, then is there a need for a patient to go into the doctor to get another blood pressure reading?
We’re just at the very beginning of these health sensors. The next generation doctor will be as good at understanding vast amounts of self generated health data as they are at understanding physical queues. The physical will never leave us completely, but what a doctor will be able to treat virtually will grow exponentially. The face-to-face interaction will just likely be by video instead of in an exam room.