Telemedicine Is a Tool — Not a Replacement for Your Doctor’s Touch
Earlier in the pandemic it was vital to see doctors over platforms like Zoom or FaceTime when in-person appointments posed risks of coronavirus exposure. Insurers were forced — often for the first time — to reimburse for all sorts of virtual medical visits and generally at the same price as in-person consultations.
By April 2020, one national study found, telemedicine visits already accounted for 13% of all medical claims compared with 0.15% a year earlier. And covid hadn’t seriously hit much of the country yet. By May, Johns Hopkins’ neurology department was conducting 95% of patient visits virtually compared with just 10 such visits weekly the year before, for example.
Covid-19 let virtual medicine out of the bottle. Now it’s time to tame it. If we don’t, there is a danger that it will stealthily become a mainstay of our medical care. Deploying it too widely or too quickly risks poorer care, inequities and even more outrageous charges in a system already infamous for big bills.
The pandemic has demonstrated that virtual medicine is great for many simple visits. But many of the new types of telemedicine being promoted by start-ups more clearly benefit providers’ and investors’ pockets, rather than yielding more convenient, high-quality and cost-effective medicine for patients.
“Right now there’s a lot of focus on shiny objects...