Telemedicine has been on the scene since the early days of the internet when the federal government looked to provide rural patients with access to the same kind of healthcare expertise that was available in large urban centers.

While telemedicine has been available since at least the 1990s, results from CDW’s 2017 Patient Engagement Perspectives Study show there’s still a long way to go.

Just 9 percent of providers say they are “very comfortable” with the idea of telemedicine, and another 46 percent of providers are “somewhat comfortable” with telemedicine.

There are still serious concerns. Seventy percent of providers are concerned about their ability to have a thorough consultation, and 58 percent of patients share the same concern. Another 43 percent of providers cite privacy concerns, as do 36 percent of patients, and 35 percent of providers say patients lack familiarity with the technology.

Overcoming Obstacles to Telemedicine

Doctors and patients should rethink their perceptions of telemedicine. Over the years, people grew to believe that telemedicine would fully solve their healthcare issues. That’s not the goal of telemedicine. It’s better for patients to think of it as simply a virtual way to access a physician.

Here are four best practices that will offer ways to get started with telemedicine:

1. Enable a Patient Portal.

There’s a great deal of information that people can exchange over a telemedicine portal. Patients can explain to doctors their symptoms, and doctors can share case information, test results, X-rays and the latest medical research over a portal. There are also many other administrative applications, such as patients setting up appointments online, but for the purposes of telemedicine, portals are a good first step.

2. Build Wi-Fi and Collaboration Capabilities.

Providers will require access to a robust Wi-Fi network to send images, test results and videos over the internet, and providers also need a reliable communications infrastructure that can support videoconferences.

3. Focus on Securing Healthcare Data.

Ensuring patient data security has to be a part of the program. Both doctors and patients won’t use telemedicine unless they trust that their sessions are secure. Work closely with the IT staff and trusted third parties to build a reliable security infrastructure.

4 Familiarize Patients with the Technology.

People in the medical community are caregivers, not marketers with experience in customer service. Develop ways to help familiarize patients with the new portals and the videoconferencing technology that’s central to telemedicine. Some providers now have kiosks that explain the new technology to patients in their waiting rooms, while others will send follow-up emails after a visit that offers a video tutorial on how to use the technology.

Over the next three to five years, more people will use videoconferencing either at work or on their personal smartphones. Given the close relationships millennials have with their smartphones, it’s a safe bet that any widespread use of telemedicine will involve a mobile app. Providers need to start their programs now. Begin with web-based portals, then build up to short office visits for small medical issues and videoconferences between physicians for consultations and second opinions for more serious cases that may require surgery. While it’s still unclear what will drive more widespread use of telemedicine, for certain applications, especially consultations between physicians, it’s only a matter of time.

To learn more about videoconferencing and other telemedicine technologies, visit

2 thoughts on “4 Best Practices for Moving Telemedicine Forward

  • Familiarizing patients with technology used will be the most important factor in the overall success of any doctor or medical association’s telehealth or telemedicine program. This is because many of the patients using this type of program will be disabled, elderly and/or chronically ill. These patients may require accommodations in order to utilize the technology in question.

  • I had no idea telecommunication was starting to be used to give patients access to health care. It seems like a great idea if you are living in a rural area to be able to contact your doctor and video conference him if you can’t make the drive to the office. I wonder what other types of teleservices hospitals and doctors have to offer. Thank you for the information.

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