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Insufficient information

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The convenience and speed of store-and-forward telemedicine software make it easy for patients to accidentally skip entering their vital information. For example, if the patient skips reporting a medication, the provider may not catch this error because the patient’s prescription information may be in a separate system (like an EMR) or the provider may assume the patient is no longer taking that medication. When it comes to missing patient information, telemedicine software must support a flow that tries to capture updated medical information from patients to promote patient safety, but must do it in a way that does not disrupt efficiency. 

The patient information may either be missing because the patient did not enter it, or patient information may be missing because it was not gathered. As we mentioned above when discussing the benefits of store-and-forward telemedicine, some solutions use intelligent questionnaires that are optimized to ask specific questions for the most common medical conditions for a given specialty. 

There is also a potential benefit for patient information with telemedicine. Since many patients will be completing their virtual visits from home, they may have ready access to their medications. This means if they don’t remember the exact name of the medication that they are taking, they could go and take a look at the prescription container. Just as providers may find the patient information insufficient, patients may likewise find the provider response and treatment plan insufficient. Patients may have questions and clarification requests after their virtual visits are complete. Although a bit inconvenient, there are a couple of approaches to help handle these patient questions.

One approach is to encourage patients to call the clinic with any needed clarifications.  Another approach is to use a messaging feature, common to many telemedicine applications, where patients can send messages to their providers. Some telemedicine applications may limit the number of messages or the amount of time after the virtual visit when such messages can be sent. Some providers have voiced concerns that some patients may abuse the follow-up messaging and support service. However, this approach is not significantly different from existing approaches, such as a clinic’s on-call service or message sending through a patient portal.