People who lament the days of doctors making house calls may have mixed feelings about a possible new direction in the field of medicine. So-called “virtual” health care may become the norm in the near future as some appointments are replaced by online consultations with a medical professional. It remains to be seen if such changes will have an impact on patient safety or medical errors resulting in harm to the patient. Recent studies have confirmed that the majority of medical mistakes that lead to malpractice payments are the result of diagnostic errors. Virtual health care has the potential to impact those situations for the better or for the worse.
Technology has an important place in the field of medicine. Advancements give doctors new tools for identifying and treating illnesses and injuries. Some of the new uses for technology will have a relatively small impact on patients. Patients may schedule appointments online, rather than working through a front desk. Electronic records may change the way medical professionals store and access data, but the difference might go unnoticed by a patient. However, the prospect of seeing a doctor via Skype, FaceTime or another electronic means could have a tremendous impact on your health care.
When technology makes inroads, progress can be swift. In 2009, 48 percent of office-based physicians were using electronic health record systems. By 2012, the number had grown to 72 percent. New laws are making electronic means of tracking health care, including prescriptions, nearly mandatory. Costs are likely driving other innovations. In a fast-changing health care scene, it is important that we all make an effort to ensure that patient safety is not sacrificed.
Source: USA Today, “Virtual health care gaining ground,” by Carol Gorga Williams, 6 May 2013