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Docs: It's Time to Certify Specialists in Telemedicine

Analysis  |  By Debra Shute  
   December 07, 2017

Virtual medicine practice is more than technological competence. A doctor who proposed the idea of telemedicine certification advocates why this is so.

As medicine sees advancements in technology and expansion of knowledge in care delivery, specialties and their commensurate board certifications continue to proliferate.

With telemedicine use and applications growing, a premier candidate for this process may be a specialty representing the "medical virtualist," proposed two physicians at New York-Presbyterian (NYP) in a recent JAMA Viewpoint.

Paper coauthor Michael Nochomovitz, MD, chief clinical integration and network development officer at NYP, offers his insights on this topic.

The following transcript has been lightly edited.

HealthLeaders Media: What motivated you to share this idea?

Michael Nochomovitz, MD: Telemedicine started out with coughs, colds, rashes—easy things. But now with the technology improving and remote monitoring expanding, the need for a more sophisticated approach has become apparent.

A telemedicine visit isn't the same as FaceTiming your cousin. It involves a true medical interaction that needs to be defined and categorized, and there are a number of people around the country who have set standards of their own, but they haven't made any consensus because it's too early.

Related: The Adolescence of Telehealth

Having said that, there are going to be people who do this for a living. There will be a career where you don't touch a patient, and there will have to be a set of core competencies that will need to be codified.

HLM: Were you surprised by the level of reaction to your article?

Nochomovitz, MD: I don't know. This is the first time the idea of a new specialty has actually gone public. We coined the phrase "medical virtualist," and now people are chewing on the concept.

I think one of the reasons JAMA published it is that the idea is new and somewhat disruptive, and it's unclear where it goes from here and how it will impact the rest of healthcare.

We're excited by the response because the discussion is so needed.

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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