Two Heads are Better than One: The Benefits of Telehealth Enabled Collaboration

The mark of a true professional is knowing your limitations. In medicine especially it is essential to collaborate, to recognize that sometimes the best care you can give to your patient is to pass him on to someone else. In decades past we lived in one doctor towns, trusting that we were in the best hands around because in a small town we were. A few years later things changed, and the best care meant the best doctors in the area, patients trusting that the ambulance or helicopter would bring them to the best place we could be. Now things are changing again, with telehealth allowing the best doctors in the world to come to patients instantaneously.

Companies like TruClinic provide a secure, video conferencing platform that doesn’t require anything more than an internet connection and a webcam, allowing patients to access the right healthcare providers anywhere in the world, anytime.

This means clinicians can instantaneously reach colleagues anywhere across the globe for a consultation. Effort on both sides is marginal, since a clinician elsewhere can be asked to join a telehealth appointment, leave input, disconnect and move on with no obstruction, wait, or inconvenience. Such collaborative powers not only give the patient comprehensive care, but also deepens and expands the individual clinician's ability to draw upon their network to supplement their services through partnerships.

This type of telecare is known as hub and spoke, connecting one facility to another via telemedicine. A nurse may perform a physical exam while a remote doctor describes the steps via a monitor, or a surgeon may require the patient work with a care manager online to better prepare for outpatient care. These kind of interactions don’t have to be planned either, say a general practitioner confronts an unusual rash and needs to consult a dermatologist. The general practitioner can search within their network for an available dermatologist and with the patient's permission a direct feed to the dermatologist can be opened so the assessment can be made on the spot. Telemedicine allows the right people to spend time with patients, eliminating inefficiencies and improving patient care. 

The benefits of such a set up are to be found in the day to day care of patients as well as broadened horizons opened up by diverse collaborative possibilities. The opportunity for doctors to pool their knowledge and expertise to solve medical dilemmas could create whole new ways of approaching the treatment of disease. Secure collaboration using video conferencing technology could also draw the most value out of the digital resources at hand to divide labor more efficiently and make sure each facet of the patient's situation is under observation.

This telehealth enabled collaboration is not without its hurdles. Cross-state licensure and the compensation model have yet to become standard, though reimbursement for hub and spoke telemedicine sessions is becoming widely accepted. It is only a matter of time before new policies develop to match the new technological conditions. Once the details are worked out, the dream of a universal network of interconnected healthcare will be here.