If you are not aware yet, the practice of medicine is in the midst of a reckoning forced by a global pandemic with every response designed to reduce the risk of viral transmission. While telemedicine has been around for quite some time, only now has it become less of an option but more of mandatory service. Read below to learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of telemedicine for patients as well as providers.
Telemedicine, or telehealth, is medical care that you can receive digitally often via video conferencing that replaces seeing a doctor in person.
Benefits to Patients
- Convenience and Access: The benefits of telemedicine include reducing geographic barriers, improving access to care, cutting down on travel time, and preventing the spread of illness. Even if you live near a doctor, telemedicine can be more convenient than traditional office visits. It eliminates travel time, cuts down on waiting rooms, and allows for more flexible scheduling outside of regular office hours. Telemedicine improves access to medical care especially those with limited mobility, such as people with a spinal cord injury or neuromuscular disorders.
- Prevents the spread of infection or illness: More people are opting to use telehealth services now because it limits potential exposure to infection. This can be especially useful for those who are considered high risk, like the elderly population or people with pre-existing medical conditions
- Telemedicine allows for easy management of chronic illness: With remote patient monitoring, some chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can be more easily managed. For example, some patients can use at-home devices – like blood pressure cuffs, digital scales, and blood glucose monitors – to record vital data that can be digitally transferred to your doctor.
Benefits for healthcare providers
- Keeps business of providing medical care in business: It’s not just the commercial establishments that are bearing the brunt of a business downturn during the pandemic. Even care institutions are negatively affected by COVID19. Having to deal with the surge in patients in reference to the adequacy of personnel is well documented. But other than treating infection cases, the need for other medical specializations services plummeted. Telemedicine enables these providers to continue the medical practice. Providers who offer telemedicine services may incur fewer overhead costs. For example, they may pay less for front desk support or be able to invest in an office space with fewer exam rooms.
- Additional revenue stream: Clinicians may find that telemedicine supplements their income because it allows them to provide care to more patients.
- Less exposure to illness and infections: When providers see patients remotely, they do not have to worry about exposure to any pathogens the patient may carry.
However, telehealth can’t completely replace in-person visits for chronic or special medical conditions. Someone with diabetes will still need an annual in-person eye exam and patients who just had surgery will need to be personally seen to check for progress.
Telemedicine has limitations and may not suit every person or situation. Compared to traditional care methods, a doctor cannot “feel” the patient (think abdominal examination), which is why traditional office visits must not be abandoned, but rather supplemented through telemedicine.
The following sections look at some disadvantages for patients and healthcare providers.
Disadvantages for patients
Not all patients can be a good fit for telemedicine. Some drawbacks of this include:
- Securing medical data: Increased chances of hackers and other criminals to be able to access a patient’s medical data, especially if the patient accesses telemedicine on a public network or via an unencrypted channel.
- Urgent Care delays: When a person needs emergency care, accessing telemedicine first may delay treatment, particularly since a doctor cannot provide life-saving care or laboratory tests digitally.
Disadvantages for healthcare providers
Healthcare providers may also face some drawbacks associated with telemedicine, including:
- Technological issues: Finding the right digital platform to use can be challenging. Also, a weak connection can make it difficult to offer quality care. Clinicians must also ensure that the telemedicine program they use is secure and fully compliant with privacy laws.
- An inability to examine patients: Providers must rely on patient self-reports during telemedicine sessions. This may require clinicians to ask more questions to ensure that they get a comprehensive health history. If a patient leaves out an important symptom that might have been noticeable during in-person care, this can compromise treatment.