I had a few minutes out of a long shift today to take a stroll around the hospital and get some fresh air, and I noticed some new billboards advertising primary care telemedicine services sponsored by two of the sizable insurance companies operating in this area (upstate New York, moderate sized urban area). My first reaction was one of disgust; nothing in my training would ever suggest that medicine could be practiced outside of a personal patient-doctor setting in which hands on examination was an integral part. My second reaction was one of puzzlement; this isn't an area where it is exactly hard to find doctors in any specialty except maybe Psych, so I'm not sure what the motivation is on the part of the insurance companies other than perhaps to provide another way to push preventative care strategies as part of a long range strategy to decrease chronic disease payouts for them. I understand the value of consultative telemedicine when subspecialists aren't readily available, but this is not an area where that would apply.
As a peds hospitalist I don't feel particularly threatened by this, but I imagine my FM and IM friends may not feel so warm and fuzzy about this. On the other hand, my ED friends might like a break from the primary care BS that shows up all the time.
Any thoughts about what is motivating this? Is it just 'follow the money'? (Yes, I think it is).
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