Group calls for wider use of telemedicine by allergists

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The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has put out new guidelines to encourage more allergists to utilize telemedicine in their everyday practices.

Specifically, the ACAAI’s new position paper calls for the “incorporation of meaningful and sustained” use of the technology in allergy and immunology practice.

“In thinking through the different use cases, we realized that allergists would benefit from having guidelines around how to incorporate telehealth into their practices,” says allergist Tania Elliott, MD, lead author of the paper and a spokesperson for ACAAI.

The document provides on overview of policies, regulations, and clinical guidelines—as well as the challenges to implementation—which is intended to serve as a blueprint for recommended treatment options, according to Elliott, who adds that allergy is one of the top conditions patients seek care for through telemedicine visits.

“A video visit can, in some ways, be superior to an in-person evaluation,” contends Elliott. “Most allergic reactions last less than 24 hours, so if you think about how a patient would be able to get in to see an allergist to make an assessment it’s virtually impossible. But, if there’s an opportunity to engage through a video visit, then all of a sudden you don’t have to worry about space and time and an allergic reaction can be assessed in real time.”

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When it comes to the efficacy of telemedicine for diagnosing and treating allergies, Elliott notes that the medical literature provides evidence that telehealth is as effective for the treatment of atopic dermatitis or eczema as is in-person care.

She also believes that the video technology has value when used to connect a home-based patient with an allergist, providing the context for potential environmental triggers for their allergies. “It certainly provides an additional kernel of information that an allergist can use to help guide a patient on how to make their home allergy-free.”

However, ACAAI acknowledges that incorporating telemedicine into an allergy and immunology practice is not without its challenges.

“There are many variations in state guidelines in the practice of telemedicine as it relates to prescribing and licensing, according to the paper. “Many laws and regulations that relate to reimbursement and practice of medicine were drafted before the use of telemedicine by larger markets and present legal barriers that relate to medical licensure, credentialing, and privileging.”

In addition, the authors point out that “there is concern that use of certain technologies depersonalize the patient-physician relationship” and that “websites that offer on-demand, episodic care for health conditions may disrupt the continuity of care between the patient and the physician and undermine care coordination.”

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