Telemedicine: The Primary Care Visit of the Future

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The appearance, goals, and even the location of primary care visits continue to evolve rapidly. With the development of telemedicine, medical professionals ranging from primary care doctors to physician assistants (PAs) to nurse practitioners (NPs) will fulfill an important role in implementing this innovative technology.

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Understand how the primary care visit of the future could look, and discover how NPs may help realize the full potential of telemedicine:

What the Primary Care Visit of the Future May Look Like

In 2017, nearly every primary care visit involves just a patient and a physician, along with a family member for support. As Fortune explains, however, this relatively simple routine is likely to change significantly in the near future. Not only will a wider variety of professionals take part in primary care visits, but they will also use technology more effectively.

These two substantial changes intertwine in many ways. As the average patient increasingly requires the care of many specialists and not just a family doctor, a variety of care providers must be available to offer care and services. NPs, mental health providers, nutritionists, and other specialists are likely to take part in such a visit, but they may not care for patients in person. To advise and treat a larger number of patients with greater efficiency, many specialists will likely offer remote services.

Since patients and health care providers may not share the same physical space, Fortune explains, advanced technology will be necessary for effective treatment. In addition to real-time video streaming, health care professionals may use remote sensors and data collection techniques to track patients’ health and statistics. Patients and health care professionals may also use smartphones and tablets to facilitate two-way communication by text, voice, or video.

By 2024, experts predict that this technology will become so predominant that the number of telemedicine visits will surpass the number of office visits. This bodes well for health care professionals eager to adopt and optimize this new technology. It is also likely a positive step for patients, who will receive care more easily and conveniently than ever before.

How Nurses Can Utilize Telemedicine

As telemedicine becomes more widely available, health care professionals can use this technology in many ways. Perhaps one of the most effective uses is providing essential care, which is especially useful for patients who have chronic conditions that require frequent doctor visits or symptom monitoring. With telemedicine, NPs can streamline this type of ongoing care and adjust treatment plans as necessary.

Some NPs may also use telemedicine to check in with patients about tests, screenings, and labs. In the past, patients may have had to make multiple visits to complete a round of tests, and they may have received results by phone. With telemedicine, NPs can make the best use of their valuable time, reducing the number of follow-up phone calls they may have to make, while also providing patients with more accurate information through real-time video streaming.

Nurses who prescribe medications may also offer their patients greater value through telemedicine. By scheduling remote appointments to discuss medications or assess patient progress, NPs can help patients manage their medications, adjust dosage or drug type, and prescribe refills. Since telemedicine may offer a more time-effective method for nurses and a more convenient option for patients, those in need may ultimately receive better and more comprehensive medication management.

NPs have already proven especially effective in more rural areas of the nation, where underserved residents have a greater need for medical care. With telemedicine, NPs can increase the aid and value they offer to patients in these areas. While many NPs will likely continue to offer office or clinic visits in more remote areas of the U.S., offering telemedicine services enables them to give more frequent checkups and even manage medications from afar.

How Telemedicine Can Expand the Scope of an NP’s Work

For years, nurses have steadily gained more authority to practice health care independently. Professionals who have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and obtained an advanced degree, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), have full practice autonomy (FPA) in nearly two dozen states across the nation. In these states, NPs may advise, treat, and diagnose patients without the oversight of a physician.

As NPs begin to adopt telemedicine, they may have the authority to do more than just give basic care and advice. In the states where they have FPA, NPs may be able to provide the same level of care that primary care physicians would, which further expands the nurse’s roles and value to the health care community.

As Forbes explains, in recent years, many companies have also begun offering employees better access to NPs, with over three-quarters of large employers providing insurance coverage for retail clinic visits. This means many patients are already accustomed to receiving regular care from NPs, especially those who provide urgent treatment.

The widespread introduction of telemedicine will only expand the scope of nurse practitioners’ already varied and impactful work, as patients naturally gravitate toward receiving a greater level of care and treatment from NPs than ever before. This could result in an even greater demand for both specialized and general NPs than what already exists.

NPs who want to become cornerstones of the rapidly advancing telemedicine landscape should consider learning how to use the technology and understanding when and where to use it as soon as possible. As health care policy continues to evolve and both providers and patients seek treatment that offers better value, NPs have the potential to make an important difference in the industry.

With so many technological innovations on the horizon, this is a truly exciting time to work in health care. Pursuing a BSN to DNP degree in nursing could open many rewarding doors in telemedicine and beyond. Visit Maryville University’s online BSN to DNP program to learn more.

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Telemedicine for Primary Care