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Study: Physicians pleased with telemedicine

Staff report • Apr 11, 2007 at 11:57 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Primary care physicians overall are satisfied with telemedicine and find it to be a good complement to standard patient care, according to a local researcher's just-published results.

Telemedicine is particularly helpful in managing men and women with diabetes living in remote rural areas, said Dr. Fred Tudiver, professor of family medicine and director of primary care research at East Tennessee State University's James H. Quillen College of Medicine. The findings of his study are featured in the current issue of the Journal of Rural Health.

"When telemedicine was first conceived several decades ago, it was just that - a doctor advising a patient over the telephone," Tudiver said. "But with so many recent advances in medicine and technology, that definition has moved to entirely new levels.

"There have been hundreds of papers published measuring patient satisfaction with telemedicine, but our study was one of the first to present the same question to the physicians and nurse practitioners who are delivering the care."

According to Tudiver, the project involved a series of telephone interviews with more than 100 primary care providers in upstate New York. All were participating in a telemedicine clinical trial study involving Medicare patients with diabetes in federally designated medically underserved areas, primarily those in rural small towns with limited access to primary care - a situation, Tudiver said, similar to that in Northeast Tennessee, which is served by the Quillen College of Medicine.

Patients were given a computer as well as home devices that measure blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and they immediately uploaded the data back to the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, which hosted the study along with Columbia University.

The family physicians, internists and nurse practitioners who participated in the study communicated a positive experience regarding the use of telemedicine, Tudiver said. They found that it helped with the overall management of diabetes in ways such as improving compliance and increasing knowledge of the disease. It was also beneficial in assisting those patients who live in remote areas of the state.

"One of the greatest things we learned was that the providers did not see telemedicine as replacing care, but rather as complementing it," Tudiver said. "The only negative comments related to a few concerns about ‘red tape' and additional paperwork, but, overall, they were pleased."

The Journal of Rural Health is published by the National Rural Health Association.

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