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VBCR - June 2015, Volume 4, No 3 - Value Propositions

Telemedicine—first used effectively to link rural areas with specialists in urban areas by providing patient services through the use of telecommunications—is evolving. Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of the American Telemedicine Association, reports, “With time, the cost of both the technology and the communication services went way down, and we are just beginning to see the use of digital phones, computers and tablets in this area.”

However, in diagnosing and treating rheumatology patients, touch is of great importance, and integrating telemedicine into rheumatology practice presents specific challenges. Having a specially trained RN, LPN, or medical assistant acting as “presenter” is one way to resolve this issue. The presenter can obtain typical check-in information, record vital signs, and describe physical conditions such as muscle strength, range of motion, joint tenderness, and existence of rashes. The presenter also usually operates the camera and other equipment.

Costs of setting up include a telemedicine clinical cart at the patient site, available for about $30,000. The physician would need a desktop computer, about $3000; a web camera, about $100; and web-enabled telepresence software that is secure and complies with HIPAA regulations.

Providing access to care by a specialist remains a primary justification for telemedicine, and rheumatologists considering adding a remote capability to their practice should first evaluate their geographic location. However, even suburban areas may become suitable for telemedicine as the expected shortage of rheumatologists develops. Ullman K. The Rheumatologist. May 15, 2015.

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Last modified: June 29, 2015
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