Finding a Way to Marry Telemedicine and Teleradiology – Radiology Second Opinions
Traditionally telemedicine has always involved real-time face-to-face communications directly between physicians or between doctors and patients. Meanwhile, teleradiology is a store-and-forward technology where doctors remotely read medical images sent to them from many facilities and provide their diagnosis. The question is whether there a way to combine these two and provide benefits not otherwise available?
Teleradiology Use Case Models
Here are several potential use cases that have looked promising over the years:
3-way consults – A three-way video consultation between a radiologist, a referring physician and a patient, with the ability to display a medical image. A variation of this could be adding a family member into the conversation. This would provide patients with a better understanding of their medical condition and help with their decision-making about a recommended procedure. The drawbacks: determining how physicians get compensated for this type of consultation and also a concern about the impact on radiologist productivity. Perhaps this is best left to academic medical centers.
doctor-to-doctor consults – A second use case is a physician-to-physician consultation to discuss critical findings. This capability has been demonstrated by Johns Hopkins at a recent RSNA meeting but has not yet seen a commercially viable implementation.
real-time consults during exams – Next is the combining of telemedicine and teleradiology primarily for live consultation between medical professionals during pathology, ultrasound and other radiology examinations. This is currently being done by the vendor Remote Medical Technologies. The disadvantage of replicating this model is the time and effort required to train technologists on ultrasound. It could also be improved upon by adding a camera in the exam room to provide much user guidance.
direct-to-consumer – The telehealth case now being introduced is for direct-to-consumer second opinion consultations.
Second Opinion Teleradiology: The Winning Model
In 2016, there were more than 1,250,000 online patient consultations1.
Patients are becoming comfortable receiving medical information over their computers without having to make the trip to a medical facility which may be many miles away and pose challenges of transportation and long waiting room times. In a recent study2, the Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 88 percent of patients seeking a medical second opinion received a new or refined diagnosis – changing their care plan and potentially their lives. Surely the potential of a second doctor’s opinion can help a patient facing an important medical decision.
This year at the American Telemedicine Association meeting, VSee, the telemedicine company for NASA Space Station, and Teleradiology Specialists, a leader in teleradiology, are announcing their partnership in offering direct-to-consumer Radiology Second Opinions and paving the way towards the marriage of telemedicine and teleradiology.
How Does Second Opinion Teleradiology Work?
With the new Radiology Second Opinions service, patients can now directly have their medical images viewed by another board-certified radiologist and receive a written report in just a few of days without going through delays in appointment scheduling and another trip to a provider.
First, a patient receiving an imaging exam (X-ray, Ultrasound, Mammogram, CT, MR) will need to request a copy of their exam from the imaging facility when they check out – usually provided on a CD or perhaps via a patient portal. (The provider is obligated to do this, although there may be a $5 charge for a CD.)
Then the patient uploads the image to Teleradiology Specialists from her home computer. The patient can also ask specific questions at the time she submits the study for a second opinion. The patient will be billed according to fee schedule based on the type of exam. Results are returned in one to three days.
With this second opinion teleradiology option, patients can quickly receive accurate image interpretations with thorough reports, and gain peace of mind. Patients can also take these results to their own physician for feedback. In the future, face-to-face consultation services may also be added.
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