In medical practice, the term ‘telemedicine’ is interchangeably used with ‘telehealth.’ Telehealth includes both remote clinical and other nonclinical services provided through telecommunication technology to improve healthcare delivery.
Ideally, telemedicine is used to refer to the provision of clinical services remotely and via real-time two-way telecommunication between the healthcare provider and the patient. With telemedicine, medics can diagnose and treat patients using technology without being physically present.
Below are nine different telemedicine pros and cons:
One of the advantages of telemedicine is that it gets you treatment within the confines of your home or office. You don’t have to persevere long queues and wait for hours on end in the hospital to see a doctor. Simply call the telemedicine number provided by your primary physician and make consultations either through interactive calls or video conferencing.
Depending on the evaluation, you may be instructed to visit a particular hospital, purchase prescription drugs, or schedule a follow-up appointment. Telemedicine systems can save you time and money in terms of travel and related expenses.
2. Increased Access to Healthcare
We live in an interconnected digital world where patients in remote areas can access specialty medical services such as mental healthcare and other clinical services. Should you have a sick relative or friend in the countryside, telemedicine can be a great option.
3. Improved Patient Engagement Rate
People avoid seeking medical attention because they are ashamed of the nature of their illness. Let’s be honest, you won’t like it if another patient happened to eavesdrop on a private conversation with your doctor. Telemedicine provides the privacy you need when consulting a physician.
This telemedicine benefit also eliminates barriers such as costs that hinder access to medical care. Besides, it is flexible and allows you as many appointments with your physicians as possible, regardless of the time or place!
4. Quality Patient Care
Imagine being attended to by a tired-looking doctor who has been working two consecutive shifts in a day. Now, what if the same doctor has a long list of patients waiting to be attended to after you. Chances are the quality of health care service you will receive will be below par, and in extreme cases, you might even end up with a misdiagnosis.
You can avoid this by using telemedicine as it allows healthcare providers to treat and follow-up on patient’s progress at the convenience of both parties. The doctor gets to treat you when they are unrushed and relaxed. They also get to closely monitor a patient and make in-depth, accurate evaluation. Because it’s real-time, telemedicine addresses symptoms before they spiral out of control since treatment can be administered within minutes.
Most health care providers find it difficult balancing between making profits and providing quality healthcare. With telemedicine, you can do both. It reduces incidences of medication non-adherence, unnecessary ER visits or late cancellations by patients. This saves time and increases the efficiency of regular visits. Besides, with telemedicine, doctors can attend to more patients without having to hire extra staff or upgrade their office space.
Telemedicine, however, comes with the following challenges:
6. Requires Technical Training and Equipment
To operate a piece of technological equipment, you need to understand the system itself and how it works. Sophisticated technological solutions require the involvement of IT specialists, which lead to additional costs. For optimum return on investments, make sure all medical staff are familiar with, and adequately trained to operate, the new systems.
7. Difficulty Keeping Patients’ Records
With telemedicine, it is easy for patients’ records to get mixed up. This is because the primary care provider and the secondary physician are sometimes unable to access all of a patient’s records. This results in inconsistency in regards to treatment administered on a patient, or even a misdiagnosis. Healthcare providers should, therefore, maintain adequate, up-to-date patient records, which should be accessible by relevant parties (patient, primary and secondary care providers).
8. Cyber Security
This is undoubtedly one of the biggest telemedicine disadvantages. Telemedicine systems are among the most vulnerable to hacks and breaches. To circumvent this challenge, healthcare providers using telemedicine systems are legally required to abide by all the laws in their jurisdiction. They are expected to offer the same level of privacy you would get during an in-person visit. They are also not supposed to divulge personal information without your consent.
9. Private Payer Reimbursement
Policies surrounding private payer reimbursement are quite unclear. They also vary from province to province. Should you have doubts, consult your primary care provider on the reimbursement policy for your area.
The beauty of telemedicine is that doctors and auxiliary medical staff can remotely diagnose and treat patients. Telemedicine involves remote patient monitoring, especially those with chronic diseases. This is done using mobile medical devices that collect vital data such as blood pressure and sugar levels. They also store and forward asynchronous telemedicine information, which allows physicians in different locations to share patients’ data.