In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, a prominent physician put the rush to telemedicine (and teledentistry) into context. Here are his key points:

  1. well-trained clinicians use all their senses — not just hearing and vision. They appraise the whole patient: Is there a new limp, a shift in posture, a new pallor? Often, it’s what patients don’t notice or complain about that is essential. And there is no diagnostic test more cost-effective than the laying on of hands.
  2. Trust and face-to-face encounters are even more important for patients with complex and intertwined problems.

I am reminded of a friend who visited a careful, expert independent hygienist to start his Prevora treatment. This hygienist examined for oral cancer first. She found the lump and then followed the patient to the physician. This saved his life.

Oral cancer screening can be critical to patient health

I am also reminded of why the best family doctors always seem to be behind schedule. They find signs and symptoms often unrelated to the original purpose of the consultation.

Lastly, I am reminded about our short consultations conducted by independent hygienists in a medical examination room for adults with diabetes. Most of these diabetics had chronic oral inflammation which could be impacting their condition. All had no knowledge of this risk, and all were keen to improve their oral health.

Virtual healthcare visits are necessary and effective. But so too is laying on of hands.