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Solutions to the Physician Shortage with Telemedicine

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 07:30 AM


When it comes to medicine, there are always mutiple factors squeezing providers. One that can often seem insurmountable is the dual problem of the surge in patients and shortage of providers that healthcare is currently facing.

"With an aging society and millions of people gaining insurance for the first time, the country needs more doctors and clinical practitioners. By some estimates, there could be a shortage of 136,000 physicians across primary care and the specialities by 2025," says Government Health IT

The problem of mismatched supply and demand means more than just wait times. It causes increased costs for hospital systems. As CEO of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Dr. Stephen Klasko, MD, said: “We believe that 65 percent or so of patients who end up in a hospital’s emergency rooms don’t need to be there, and because it could not just be five hours of a patient’s life but $1,500 of their deductible... If all we’re doing in the same old thing, we’re going to basically say to those patients, I’ll see you in two months. They’re going to end up in the ERs.”

And ending up in ERs is a terrible result. It means high costs, increased readmissions, and poor results in a pay for performance system. So Dr. Klasko at Jefferson Hospital is part of a movement to use telemedicine and telehealth to meet the demand for care in more efficient ways. Klasko seems to be using telehealth to see patients virtually when an in-person visit isn't necessary.

This is a great step forward, but we've found that telehealth visits alone (with no medical collaboration telemedicine component) can create situations where the patient must come in for an in-person visit anyway. That's why we find that in a pay-for-performance context, a telemedicine-based medical collaboration platform is the best way to really streamline care.

Here are other examples of how telemedicine can help hospital systems meet demand and deal with provider shortages: 

  • Telemedicine can save providers' time on care coordination.  Most providers will tell you what this study proves: huge amounts of time are spent coordinating care and waiting for patient data. Telemedicine, particularly hybrid store-and-forward telemedicine, can slash those wasted minutes and get you the data you need when you're ready to receive it.
  • Focused telehealth visits can save providers and patients time. As this VA program demonstrates, telehealth visits are often great for both the patient and the provider. Klasko's program at Jefferson promises similar results.
  • Medical collaboration (as via a telemedicine platform) decreases length of stay and readmissionsAnd that combination can mean increased efficiency within the hospital system, even if the provider shortage doesn't budge in the short term. 


Hybrid store-and-forward telemedicine is an especially effective way to make providers' time stretch farther. Learn more about it here: 



ClickCare Quick Guide to Hybrid Store-and-Forward

Tags: telemedicine, patient surge, physician shortage

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