The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped healthcare for patients and providers alike. Telemedicine, once a niche offering, has taken root in the global consciousness as an everyday solution. In the United States, 13-17% of all healthcare visits now take place remotely and patients are eager to explore other digital health solutions, including virtual second opinions.
As the healthcare landscape adjusts, specialties ranging from oncology to neurology to general surgery have expanded into the telehealth realm, a move that offers providers an opportunity to play a hands-on role in addressing healthcare inequality. Freed from the burden and expense of travel, patients can now seek second opinions from world class specialists regardless of distance.
A Seamless System For Transferring Records
In the not-too-distant past, patients seeking a second opinion needed to gather all of the relevant information, including disks and documents, and physically send them to their remote specialist for review. Too often, this left patients at the mercy of storage systems outside of their control and subject to loss, misfiling, and other human error.
However, now with electronic data collection, providers and patients can quickly and inexpensively transfer records to any location with internet access — and with the confidence that the data is secure and confidential.
Remote expert and second opinion systems work with existing electronic health record (EHR) systems to transfer text, DICOM, and pathology scans with an easy-to-use drag and drop upload system that keeps both sender and receiver up-to-date on file progress and transfer completion.
These systems automatically collate the data into a single case that is easy for review — whether you’re waiting on one source or twenty.
A Matter of Timing
When traveling internationally for care or consulting, many physicians and patients struggle to adjust to any substantial time difference, adding to the strain on all parties. Additional potential barriers come in the form of language and the need to navigate a foreign medical system. A remote second opinion solution addresses these head-on by allowing physicians and patients the opportunity to communicate asynchronously from wherever they may be located.
Many remote second opinion systems also feature an integrated secure video communication. This allows for virtual face-to-face consultations that can be recorded for the physician to review as well as the option to record a video message for the patient, should a physician find it easier to verbally describe their opinion.
Of course, should patients require a more guided approach, the right second opinion solution also enables easy, synchronous communication, allowing a care team to guide a patient through the process, answer questions, and respond to any concerns.
Issuing an Opinion
A well-designed remote second opinion program allows the physician to focus on the patient, rather than the system, by removing various impediments to the process. Successful programs often use single-sign-on, a feature that does not require physicians to remember yet another set of credentials to sign-in in one familiar place. A more efficient process is created by enabling patients to self-serve during the medical record collection phase, especially helpful if there are language barriers. Giving expert physicians integrated access to issue their opinion and final report also optimizes efficiency. Good programs should be designed to automate time consuming aspects of the process that do not contribute to creating the patient experience, like manual data entry. Allowing information like physician biographies and credentials to auto populate when generating reports are small details that go a long way.
Bridging the Gap & Overcoming Barriers
Typically, the assistance of a local physician to the patient can ensure remote second opinions can be smoothly issued without fear of legal or regulatory snafus. Working with the local care team also provides a consistent delivery of patient care. Oftentimes, the patient will travel for an in-person procedure after the second opinion or expert consult. When this happens, the specialist’s team can coordinate continuing care for the patient with the local team for when they return home. In these circumstances, the specialist can serve as an extension of expertise to the local physician, the local physician is able to provide better and ongoing care for their patient and retain their business in-house, and the patient is most comfortable while still receiving the specific expertise they required.
Remote second opinion systems connect doctors with patients wherever they may be, allowing you to do what you do best: care.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Purview’s recent webinar, which further describes how physicians can collaborate to provide better access to expertise across the globe.