For a long time, telemedicine was considered to be something sophisticated and difficult. It has often been seen as the province of expensive equipment, complex cameras, and burdensome scheduling.
Of course, when video teleconferencing was the only option for remote collaboration and consultation, that was the reality to some extent. We saw so many hospitals invest in expensive hardware, only to find scheduling tricky, workflow difficult, and the technology very quickly becoming obsolete.
The reason we have been such vocal advocates for Hybrid Store and Forward telemedicine is that you can use any computer or smartphone to do the telemedicine consult, and at your convenience, since you don't have to be available for a videoconference at the same time of other providers.
The cameras that iClickCare users use to capture images of patients for these consults are, amazingly enough, their smartphones. We've found that when used through iClickCare (which doesn't use your phone's camera roll), these images are both HIPAA secure and of more than adequate quality.
But can the camera in your phone -- the one that's always in your pocket -- be good enough?
Apparently institutional thinkers and government regulators and reimbursement specialists can't believe it. Reams of policy and procedures have been written and payment for simple secure store and forward telemedicine has been slow to be accepted by CMS.
In our experience, and from stories of iClickCare users across the country -- smartphone cameras are actually superior to regular cameras, since everyone already knows how to use them. We did extensive testing in order to write our book iPhone Medical Photography and documented the validity of replacing the complex with simple. That is why we were so interested to notice a blinded study that finding that several smartphones outperformed a respected digital camera. Of these, the iPhone was top of the list. The authors successfully removed variables in the design of the study by blinding the study, using more objective lay evaluators, common objectives, and random camera order. As we teach, the principles of good medical photography are even more important than camera type.
And above all, the most important thing is not what you're using, but that you just do it -- that you work to collaborate with the tools available to you, whatever those may be.
Click below for our free primer on Hybrid Store-and-Forward telemedicine -- so you don't need expensive hardware.