Telemedicine connects patients with doctors to receive prompt online-based medical care. This service can certainly be efficient and convenient for many patients whose busy lives make it hard to get in to see a doctor in person.
But telemedicine can be downright life-saving for others, especially those who are immunocompromised or live in rural farming communities and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. Beyond the ease of being evaluated for a medical marijuana card from the comfort of home, the many benefits all medical patients currently enjoy with access to telemedicine should not go unrecognized.
The Coronavirus pandemic led Ohio, along with many other states, to enact a rule that allowed doctors to see patients via telemedicine. For medical marijuana physician offices like Duber Medical, this allowed physicians the ability to see patients virtually.
Enacted in March 2020, Ohio has twice now voted to revoke telemedicine for medical marijuana patients. Originally set to expire September 17th, 2021, telemedicine was extended to December 31st, 2021, and as of November 2021, the state extended the deadline again to March 31st, 2021.
What is Telehealth or Telemedicine?
Telemedicine allows patients to stay connected to their doctor without an in-person visit by utilizing audio and video technology. Each state has a set of regulations primary care providers and specialists must follow when conducting telemedicine visits. The treating physician needs to be licensed in your state. State licensing boards and legislatures view the location of the patient as the place where “the practice of medicine” occurs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as “the delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
Telehealth is the more generic term that telemedicine falls under. It refers to the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration, according to the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Where is Telemedicine Most Effective?
A few emerging studies show the effectiveness of telemedicine, especially in these particular areas:
- Urban Populations: A recent study of urban telemedicine use for acute care compared to suburban populations without telehealth use. The study found an overall cost savings, due largely to reductions in visits to the emergency department. The study found that the use of telemedicine increased healthcare access substantially in the urban population.
- Rural Communities: This study of telemedicine in rural Midwestern hospitals to assist nonemergency-trained physicians when they intubate patients found that health outcomes improved through use of this technology.
- Mental Health Resources: Patients who lack access to traditional mental health care may find telepsychiatry to be a useful option.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists these additional benefits of telepsychiatry, but the points certainly apply to physical health appointments too:
- Helps integrate behavioral health care and primary care, leading to better outcomes
- Reduces the need for trips to the emergency room
- Reduces delays in care
- Improves continuity of care and follow-up
- Reduces the need for time off work, childcare services, etc. to access appointments far away
- Reduces potential transportation barriers, such as lack of transportation or the need for long drives
- Reduces the barrier of stigma
Telehealth can have the disadvantage of the patient and the doctor not being in the same room. However, and especially in mental health settings, an online interaction can often create enhanced feelings of safety, security and privacy for patients. Some believe the “virtual wall” allows space for more authentic sharing of often uncomfortable or embarrassing symptoms and behaviors that might not have been otherwise shared face-to-face.
What Should Patients Do?
New patients interested in being evaluated for their Ohio medical marijuana cards can still do so online via telemedicine until March 31st, 2021. After that date, if the state decides not to review the rule, new patients will need to see a medical marijuana doctor in person to be evaluated for a medical cannabis card in Ohio.
If your Ohio medical marijuana card is up for renewal, you can get it online until March 31st, 2021. After that date, if the state decides not to review the rule, you’ll need to see a medical marijuana doctor in person to receive your renewal.
Patients or physicians with questions about the resumed enforcement of in-person visits may contact the Ohio State Medical Board. The state has created an FAQ document for physicians to provide guidance on telemedicine in Ohio. The document includes medical marijuana recommendations and can be accessed here.
While the Medical Board has made the decision, state legislators could enact a law to overrule it. Citizens who want to continue to have access to telemedicine in Ohio should contact their Ohio legislator via phone or email to express their concerns.
To access a Duber Medical medical marijuana doctor via telemedicine, make an appointment today. Duber Medical will also soon offer telemedicine in the specialties of functional medicine and psychiatry.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.