Opinion: Many ER visits could be replaced with telemedicine consultation

Several factors — the clustering of primary care physicians in urban areas, an increase in the elderly population, an increase in insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act and the prevalence of unnecessary emergency room — demonstrate the efficiency and savings that could be brought about through widespread telemedicine adoption.

"Americans are struggling to obtain affordable, convenient care, and 103 million people in the U.S. live in areas with a shortage of primary healthcare providers, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Yet the country is dependent on expensive, brick-and-mortar facilities that require time-consuming travel," wrote Richard Boxer, MD, chief telehealth officer for New York City-based Pager and CMO for Bryan, Texas-based Well Via Solutions, in a commentary for The Wall Street Journal.

Physicians who retire because they no longer wish to maintain an office, or are weary from dealing with regulations but would still like to practice, are an untapped resource, Dr. Boxer wrote. Enabling these physicians to contract with telemedicine companies and opt for specific blocks of "on call" time where they answer questions and, when possible, make diagnoses in 10-15 minute intervals, could give access to patients who would not otherwise have it.

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