Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, doctors have depended more and more on telemedicine to ensure patients get the care they need. A new study published in Telemedicine and e-Health from researchers at Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and the University of Pennsylvania shows how this technology is able to greatly reduce the time it takes for primary care doctors to consult with specialists.
In the study, researchers looked at how long it took for primary care doctors to receive a consultation with a dermatologist after they shared a photograph of an area of concern. The time dropped from almost 84 days to under five hours. In addition, the study did not show any undue increases in utilization or cost.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated just how important it is to ensure patients have the ability to access to the care, education and support they need virtually,” said co-author Aaron Smith-McLallen, director of Health Informatics and Advanced Analytics at Independence Blue Cross. “We see a future where more and more of our members will be using digital tools to complement in-person care and are working with our provider partners to make that a reality.”
“Telemedicine offers the opportunity to accelerate health care access by getting around infrastructure barriers: namely, heavily booked dermatology practices,” said the study’s senior author, said Dr. Jules Lipoff, an assistant professor of Clinical Dermatology. “Our study provides evidence that more patients can be cared for with the same amount of resources we’re using now.”
The study was co-funded by Independence and an Innovation Grant from the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation.