A sick person who might have spent too much time in a crowded waiting room waiting for his turn to see a doctor could very well explain to you the benefits of an early and more convenient patient healthcare interaction. This missed aspect of the healthcare system has been handled perfectly with the introduction of telemedicine.
Telemedicine which involves use of telecommunication technology like a telephone call, a video call, or some other form of remote patient monitoring has become an integral part of modern medicine, especially in the United States. A large number of organizations have been developing or implementing a telemedicine program into their practice. Even healthcare providers in smaller and independent practices are using it in order to gain more patients. But like everything telemedicine also has some pros and cons.
Here are some of the pros and cons of telemedicine.
Pros of Telemedicine
Convenient for patients:
Telemedicine solves a major problem patients face during their visit to the provider office, and that’s the time spent in the waiting room. If the patient does not have a severe chronic condition or any serious life-threatening issue, telemedicine can handle a wide variety of routine visits that doesn’t require a physical exam. It’s scarce to find good health care resources in rural areas but the advent of telemedicine has provided new care opportunities on both sides of the care delivery spectrum.
Cost-effective for patients and practitioners:
Telemedicine has reduced the cost of healthcare and increased efficiency by reducing travel times, hospital stays, and managing chronic diseases as patients can now easily consult their provides without any lapse in treatment. It has also been beneficial for health professionals as it solves the problem of staff management.
Increase Patient Base:
Telemedicine allows patients to access medical services for some problems which they earlier used to neglect. This has expanded the patient base for many physicians. Physicians can also strengthen relationships with existing patients. Telemedicine also allows physicians to connect with patients outside of their geographical region which can result in a patient gain.
Improves patient care quality:
Telemedicine handles cases that do not need urgent medical attention and separates acute conditions from complicated ones. It helps in better management of chronic conditions through real-time patient interactions, feedback, and reminders. It improves overall patient care quality.
Ease of appointment and follow-ups:
The biggest advantage of telemedicine is that a person can schedule an appointment as per his convenience. It also increases the number of patients for follow up visits, who will otherwise avoid a follow-up visit due to traveling or other factors.
Cons of telemedicine
In order to access telemedicine, a patient must have access to appropriate technology like a laptop or computer with video conferencing capability and internet or wifi connection. This can be a big issue for some patients who may not be so friendly with technology.
Telemedicine involves the use of technology and devices which might store a patient’s personal information and this data can be misused or accessed inappropriately. This puts patient security at risk and should be handled in a responsive manner.
Payments and Billing:
Reimbursement and coverage for telemedicine services might not be smooth as compared to in-person services. This could defeat the point of telemedicine to reduce health care costs and discourage providers from offering telemedicine because there is no guarantee of payment.
Lack of physical examination:
Telemedicine involves patient diagnosis by using video conferencing, cameras, and certain software. But, a con is that all diagnoses cannot be made without physically examining the patient or getting labs on the spot. So, it might at times be quite difficult for physicians to diagnose the actual condition of the patient.
Trust issues and variation in treatment:
When a patient visits a physician he develops a bond with him and shares all his issues and history in a detailed manner. With telemedicine, certain trust issues might arise between patients and providers. Also since large setups have a bigger number of physicians with rotational shifts so to connect with the same physician every time may not be actually possible. This might result in miscommunication or missed detail from both sides.
Telemedicine has both pros and cons but it achieves the major goal of better medical access for most patients, so we can say that the positives of telemedicine outweigh the negatives.