Telemedicine bridging the gap

To meet ongoing patients’ needs, Dr. Hoa Pham, Medical Director of Psychiatry at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is highlighting the benefits of Telemedicine and Telemental Health. 

In an informative Grand Rounds presentation, Dr. Pham reminds us that “Technology helps us to increase the care that we can bring to patients.”  In this case, Telemedicine provides an opportunity for patients to have access to direct care as well as increased education about that care.

Telemental Health also offers improved access to services that millions of new patients may have been excluded from either due to geography or cost. “There is improved quality of service and it addresses patients’ demands and needs in a direct way.”

Proponents of the use of telemedicine argue that it is useful to have medical care right in the convenience of your home. “It is also a good way to utilize health care dollars more effectively and it is most useful in empowering patients to take care of their own health.”

However, Dr. Pham is clear to mention that in order to make the best use of this opportunity, there is a need to do things differently. “In order to provide telemedicine services, organizations need to change themselves.  They may need to put in place virtual organizations and partnerships.” The best example of an effective organization using telemedicine is the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) which offers Mental Health programs.

Patients have identified needs which should be met by telemedicine.  These include the services being consumer centric, with an opportunity to get prescriptions refilled, to make or cancel appointments, and to have access to their personal records.

In highlighting some of the challenges to increasing the use of telemedicine, Dr. Pham noted technical difficulties on both sides, patients not being technologically savvy or having personal video conferencing equipment and tools.  There might also be concerns about the security and privacy of information.

“While there might be some initial hesitation to the adoption of telemedicine, if people are given the ability to test drive, ask questions and provide feedback,  they will be able to increase their familiarity with the new tool.   Having them see it in action will boost their adoption,” says Dr. Pham

People want to be more engaged in the management of their health and telemedicine helps them achieve this.