Telehealth is nothing new. According to ConsumerReports.org, at least 50 percent of hospitals and healthcare providers are offering telemedicine options. While many people may still be new to the idea, the practice of remote care is growing in popularity as a cost-saving type of healthcare that promotes care in both rural and urban areas at an affordable cost.
Telehealth is unique in its ability to offer treatment in a convenient manner reminiscent of a doctor’s house call from yesteryear. Using smart phones, email video or the web, a patient can connect with a healthcare professional to obtain a diagnosis or get a prescription written. Admittedly, there are some challenges related to diagnosing a person via technology that can be less than perfect depending on the circumstances, but there is still a lot of good news to celebrate as telemedicine continues to grow with improved options available.
The convenience offered by telemedicine is undeniable. It offers the fastest access to care regardless of the patient’s location. People living in rural areas stand to gain much needed care they may have been unable to get prior to this type of service being offered, especially specialists’ care which has typically been more available in larger metropolitan areas. Previously, people living outside of metropolitan areas often went without the care they needed from specialists.
When it is easier to talk to a doctor, patients are more likely to get the medical care they require. Greater access translates to increased patient engagement and more interaction with medical personnel. This can be particularly useful for patients dealing with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who might be less likely to want to seek face-to-face care.
Patients favor calling in to talk to a doctor or connecting via a tablet or smartphone rather than driving to see a doctor. The time savings alone is something patients truly appreciate. Evisit.com reports that 74 percent of patients prefer the ease of accessing healthcare practitioners this way over the hassle of an in-person visit.
Nobody wants to take off from work, drive across town and then wait to see a doctor. In addition to the time investment, sitting in a waiting room with other sick people that might be contagious is also a negative aspect associated with office visits.
The cost savings is also an aspect of telemedicine that is exciting and holds much promise for the future of medicine. Doctors, hospitals and patients all stand to save money by getting involved with telemedicine.
Telemedicine definitely helps solve a major problem in the mental health field. The shortage of psychiatrists has made it difficult for patients to get an appointment when they need one. The opioid crisis has served to aggravate this already tough scheduling problem. Fortunately, telemedicine offers anonymous care that is easier to access.
While the convenience of an online doctor is a practical improvement over office visits in many cases, there are times when an in-person visit is warranted. Physicians worry about patient mismanagement due to the challenges of using technology for diagnosing patients. There is no substitute for a personal touch when examining a patient.
Another concern voiced by physicians is the lack of care continuity as patients contact whatever healthcare professional answers the phone instead of staying with the same physician. Quality can suffer when a patient is constantly dealing with someone different.
Change is always accompanied by confusion. In the case of telemedicine, there is an abundance of concern about exactly how it all works. Staying compliant with privacy laws is always a top priority. How physicians get reimbursed for their services is another salient reason providers worry.
Depending on your individual situation, telehealth may or may not offer the medical solutions you want. If you are suffering from a basic problem that is easily diagnosed based on an explanation of the symptoms and need a prescription called in, then telemedicine will save you a lot of time. In cases where your health concerns are more complicated, serious or mysterious, an office visit where the physician can actually examine you is recommended.