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Doctors group: Benefits, risks of telemedicine must be balanced by physicians

Electronic communication with patients can be just as effective as in-person visits, however physicians must pay careful attention to their specific needs.

By Stephen Feller
Doctors group: Benefits, risks of telemedicine must be balanced by physicians
Many medical services can be delivered using video-conferencing technology and electronic medical records, however doctors need to be aware of their limitation, said a physicians group. Photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Using telemedicine -- a variety of technologies to work with patients who do not come into the office -- has grown in recent years, leading the American College of Physicians to release recommendations on the benefits and risks of the practice.

The group said that several steps can be taken, including establishing a good relationship with patients, in order to mitigate the risks of not requiring in-person visits for every health evaluation.

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"The use of these technologies has been shown to increase patient satisfaction while delivering similar quality, and in some cases more efficient care, as in-person care and support," said Dr. Wayne Riley, president of ACP, in a press release. "Research shows that telemedicine holds the potential to reduce costs, improve health outcomes, and increase access to primary and specialty care."

In the position paper, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, policymakers argue for more than a dozen tactics to solidify the ways they deliver medical care via technology.

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The ACP strongly supports an expanded role of telemedicine because it can enhance patient-physician collaborations, improve health outcomes, increase access to care and caregivers, and reduce the cost of care over time.

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Physicians who have no prior contact with a patient should make efforts to establish a relationship as they would in a typical in-person office visit, the ACP recommends. While these relationships can be built as solidly through telemedicine, the organization also suggests physicians communicate with others who are already involved with new patients' care.

In addition to being sure technology meets requirements and is obtainable by patients, the ACP said literacy about care and treatments be carefully monitored and, when necessary, rule out telemedicine and require patients to visit physical offices.

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"The positions put forward by ACP highlight a meaningful approach to telemedicine policies and regulations that will have lasting positive impact for patients and physicians," concluded Dr. Riley. "The health care system will, then, realize the full potential of telemedicine."

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