NC's growing medical trend? Telemedicine
Posted December 19, 2014
Updated July 13, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — When you are sick, the last thing you usually want to do is drag yourself to the doctor. Now there is another option. The North Carolina Medical Board just revised its guidelines to reflect the growing momentum of telemedicine.
Doctors describe it as a radical shift for the board. The new guidelines clearly state that physicians do not need to physically examine patients before prescribing medicine, provided they are able to conduct a thorough exam using technology. The change clears the way for virtual doctors to practice medicine in North Carolina.
Telehealth providers are now held to the same standards as so-called hands-on doctors, meaning they have to track and prove their ability to provide safe and effective medicine.
Dr. Pavel Conovalciuc practices medicine out of his office in Washington state but treats patients in North Carolina. He's one of a growing number of doctors who now practice telemedicine.
“I would be conducting the same type of interview as I would if you were my office patient,” he said.
Conovalciuc treats patients in all 50 states with online consultations through MeMD, typically for minor medical ailments such as earaches, fever, sinus infections and sore throat, with medical attention and prescription medicines. It happens all without the patient ever having to leave home.
Dr. Soon Kwark, a family physician with Rex Family Practice of Wakefield, with says the emerging field of telemedicine has its place, but she insists it can't replace a physical examination.
“The feel, the touch, the warmth. There's no substitute for that interaction. There really isn't,” Kwark said.
But the demand for quicker, easier and cheaper access to health care is growing. The North Carolina Medical Board believes telemedicine could transform health care.
“Is the ability to diagnose and prescribe as safe in that context as is it in the old fashioned context? The answer is we don't know,” said Dr. Pascal Udekwu, a WakeMed surgeon and president-elect of the North Carolina Medical Board.
Just-revised guidelines reflect the board's willingness to be open to the possibility that the answer may be yes.
“There is certainly the opportunity for it to reduce the cost and improve access,” Udekwu said.