Direct physician supervision of patient treatment is a big topic in the medical field these days. As more physicians are stretched (time) further-and-further, many docs are having a hard time complying with the supervision requirements. In a freestanding radiation oncology center (for example), the physician is required to have “direct personal supervision” over the patient; therefore, if the physician leaves the facility there can be no covered services (no payment).
While patient care and safety are always the number one concern, there are a few ‘givens’ that are hitting us like lead balloons. 1) People are living longer and the Baby Boomer generation is putting a lot of folks into an age where cancer becomes a possibility (increase in cancer patients). 2) Doctors (radiation oncologists) are hard to find (shortage) and tend to gravitate toward larger populated cities. “This leaves a large portion of the country (rural areas) underserved.” Presently many cancer patients have to drive many miles each day for treatment, spend money for hotels, or go untreated.
With the push for technology (EMR) and the fact that we all use computers in our daily lives, why is it that we are not moving in a logical direction regarding supervision of a patient’s care – namely telemedicine (remote patient care)? Physicians should be able to sit and talk to a patient via the internet (telecommunication), approve films via their computer, and monitor a patient’s treatment at satellite facilities from a central location. Physicians could treat many more patients and be in more than one place at a time.
We are heading in a direction that is ‘not’ sustainable at present. If we do not find a better way to make it easier for docs to treat patients (and get paid) the system is going to implode! Physicians need to be “allowed” to use technology to improve patient care and give them better access to treatment.