Telemedicine’s growth in recent years has led to more opportunities for clinicians and patients to visit without meeting in person. Though some are skeptical of the benefits telemedicine offers, others are fully on board. One area where it seems to be working is chronic kidney disease. A new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology shows that patients do very well with telemedicine.
The nature of chronic kidney disease might lead one to believe that telemedicine visits would not be productive for patients. But the study shows otherwise. That is good news to patients for whom regular office visits are difficult. It is also good news to doctors and health clinics looking to be more efficient.
As Good as Office Care
The study in question was led by a team of researchers hailing from the University of Toronto, Toronto’s University Health Network, and Unity Health-St. Michael’s Hospital. It was conducted as a meta-analysis of twenty-four previous studies and more than 1800 citations. While most of the study data was compiled in 2019, some of it was updated in 2021.
In a nutshell, here is what the study revealed about patients with chronic kidney disease:
- They experience adequate or equal outcomes compared to in-office visits
- They tend to experience fewer emergency room visits
- They tend to be hospitalized less frequently
- They tend to report greater efficiency compared to in-office visits.
Simply put, chronic kidney disease patients are not receiving a lower quality of care when they elect the telemedicine option. Their care is at least comparable, if not better. That being said, the study acknowledges that there are some aspects to treating kidney disease that require in-person visits.
What Telemedicine Offers
Fairness dictates that a distinction be made between video-based telemedicine and telemedicine with built-in diagnostic capabilities. For example, CSI Health is a San Antonio, TX company that designs and builds technologically advanced medical kiosks and remote telemedicine solutions. Their products offer built-in diagnostic tools. What they implement is not the type of telemedicine the Canadian study looked at.
Rather, researchers focused primarily on what videoconferencing brings to the healthcare delivery table. Specifically relating to treating patients with kidney disease, telemedicine video calls readily facilitate:
- reviews of patient medical history
- reviews of lab tests and diagnostic investigations
- routine counseling and consultations.
The point researchers made in writing the conclusion to their study is that video-based telemedicine eliminates the need for routine office visits without compromising quality of care. If specific diagnostic testing is not required for a particular visit, a video call seems to be sufficient for treating chronic kidney disease patients.
What It Means for Primary Care
Given the specific nature of chronic kidney disease, it seems reasonable to extrapolate from this particular study to make application for primary care. In cases where primary care does not require extensive diagnostic screening, telemedicine would seem wholly appropriate. Companies like CSI Health equipping solutions with real-time diagnostics are making telemedicine even more attractive.
The Canadian study takes a step forward in demonstrating that telemedicine can be a good thing. We do not need to have this ongoing fight between the traditional model and technological adoption within healthcare delivery. There is room for both.
Some consumers prefer healthcare delivery the old-fashioned way. Others are more than ready to adopt telemedicine solutions. Thankfully, emerging studies are showing that the latter group does not receive lower quality of care by choosing telemedicine services. In some cases, their care might be better. All the more reason to continue investigating and developing new remote technologies.