Telemedicine is a reliable and convenient way to treat patients remotely. As medical and communication technology continues to advance, healthcare options also expand. Virtual consultations are a great way to receive medical assistance without leaving home.
This technology is also a great help as there are many unavailable and overburdened medical workers due to the pandemic. Remote evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of patients are now an important part of various healthcare infrastructures.
How Does It Work?
Telemedicine service usually uses a toll-free phone number or an online account. Patients submit their information and current condition, schedule a consultation, then a physician either accepts or re-schedules it for another time. Any further inquiries are handled by trained medical virtual assistants.
Patients will be able to discuss their medical issues or symptoms with a physician in real-time through email, video, or other online portals. They’ll also receive a diagnosis, prescription, and advice for treatment options.
Telemedicine is practical for simple medical issues or follow-up consultations. However, it shouldn’t be used for emergency situations such as deep cuts or lacerations, stroke, heart attack, and other life-threatening conditions, as these require hands-on assistance.
Pros and Cons of Telemedicine
Telemedicine features many benefits like convenience and accessibility, especially to underserved regions, but it also has a few drawbacks due to its technological nature and some societal barriers. Due to its growing popularity, these obstacles are likely to resolve themselves with continuous technological advancements and improvement.
Advantages of Telemedicine
Virtual visits are more convenient, especially if patients have a busy schedule. There’s no need to drive to the hospital when sick or schedule for child care. Speak with your doctor anywhere you are and receive more personalized and efficient health care through phone or video chat.
Control of Infectious Illness
Patients can be pre-screened for potential infectious diseases through telemedicine. All patients, especially immunocompromised, pregnant, and the elderly, are less exposed to germs and viruses during this pandemic by avoiding face-to-face visits in crowded hospitals.
Symptomatic and asymptomatic patients can also stay home and communicate with doctors remotely to prevent the spread of the virus to the medical workers.
Increase in Patient Engagement
Virtual consultations allow patients to connect with their doctors regularly. They help improve patient-doctor relationships and make them more confident to look after their health and well-being. For example, patients practice better management of their lifestyle and medications because they can see their doctors as often as they need to.
Disadvantages of Telemedicine
Limited Access to the Internet
Some medical facilities and health networks may hesitate to start a telehealth program if most of their patients can’t access the internet. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 19 million Americans still don’t have fixed broadband service.
Challenges in Digital Literacy
Both patients and medical providers should be comfortable in using digital devices to access telemedicine platforms. However, some patients who are not digitally savvy such as the elderly may struggle in using this technology. To fix this, some companies send “healthcare ambassadors” to the patients’ homes and help them with setting up the app and having test videos.
Privacy is a paramount concern, especially in patients’ health information. Cyberattacks can happen on all communication ends, so they should be encrypted for added protection. Software development companies should maintain HIPAA compliance and data privacy as healthcare system data are highly sensitive.
What Are Some Telemedicine Medical Services?
Some providers offer COVID consultations and tests like PCR, rapid antigen, and antibody testing. Patients just need to book an appointment, and then a medical provider will assess their symptoms to find out if they need any tests.
Patients can conveniently talk to a physician for any urgent but minor concerns like chronic disease management, prescriptions for medicines, or dietary and physical activity issues. Short-term illnesses can be managed through telemedicine as long as there are no serious risks.
Telepsychiatry involves support for mental health consultations. Most patients feel relaxed talking to their doctors on screen and more willing to open up as they’re in a comfortable space in their home. The effectiveness and confidentiality of telepsychiatry are the same as face-to-face consultations.
Telemedicine helps provide necessary care for patients while easing the shortage of medical workers and facilities. Although done remotely, it improves a patient’s health through real-time communication and effective service that have the same results as an in-person visit. Telemedicine wasn’t created specifically for public health emergencies or disasters, but it’s been highly favorable in the COVID crisis.