Benefits and Limitations of Telemedicine for Patients
Date : Jul 28, 2020
Author : DR A Zayed
Healthcare is changing parallel to the evolution of technology and science. The focus is on providing care to more patients than before, even in areas that are hard to reach. That’s where telemedicine steps in. Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, has been around for years but we are yet to witness dramatic expansion.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how significant telemedicine can be. The benefits of telemedicine are numerous, but there are some limitations of telemedicine. In this post, we’re going to discuss both advantages and shortcomings of telemedicine for patients.
Benefits of Telemedicine
We live in an era of technology where connectivity is everything. Various apps and platforms allow users to communicate, connect, and stay in touch. We also have the opportunity to buy everything with a few clicks. Nowadays we can do a great deal of our work online. So it doesn’t seem so unusual that healthcare is going this way as well. To some extent, at least! Below, you can take a look at some of the most important benefits of telemedicine for patients.
1. No Transportation
Telemedicine allows patients to see their doctors via computers and mobile devices. Patients don’t have to drive, look for parking, spend money on gas, or use public transportation. While it’s easy to say transportation isn’t a big deal, we need to keep in mind many patients live in areas that are hard to reach. This is, particularly in developing countries. But, in big cities, it can also be tricky to handle transportation. Telehealth takes this factor out of the equation, you can speak with your doctor whether you’re at home, work, or somewhere else.
2. No Need To Take Time Off
Most people need to take time off when they have an appointment. Some people need a day off, others a few hours. This isn’t overly convenient and telemedicine aims to change it. Telemedicine allows patients to schedule an appointment when it suits them the best. During a break, before or after work, various options are available. Thanks to telemedicine patients can comply with the doctor’s follow-up instructions and maintain their health without taking time off work.
Hospital costs are expensive and many patients struggle with payments. People who use telemedicine tend to spend less time in the hospital. In turn, the cost of their treatment decreases. Secondary expenses are also reduced with telemedicine. These expenses include the above-mentioned transportation and other expenses you may need to make to get to your appointment.
Maintaining Family Responsibilities
Patients face various challenges in their day-to-day life. These challenges are often difficult to overcome which can affect their doctor’s appointments. For instance, many patients have the responsibility of caring for their children or older family members. The alternative care, even for a few hours, can be costly. Taking them with you can be impractical or stressful. Telemedicine allows patients to maintain their family responsibilities and still see their doctor regularly.
Improved Access to Care for People with Disabilities
Telemedicine allows patients with disabilities to get improved access to care. They do not face challenges regarding communication, transportation, navigating around hospitals, and clinics. Telehealth services simplify the process of receiving proper care for vulnerable populations including the elderly.
Reduced Risk of Infections
Numbers show that healthcare-acquired infections account for 1.7 million infections in the U.S. and 99,000 associated deaths each year. Going to a hospital or a local healthcare centre to see the doctor means you are surrounded by people who are sick, which is particularly risk now that we’re dealing with COVID-19 pandemic. The risk of infections increases this way. The infections are especially dangerous for people with chronic conditions and impaired immune system. The opportunity to communicate with your doctor via mobile device or computer minimizes exposure to sources of infections.
Besides the above-mentioned advantages of telemedicine, other benefits include:
- Easy access to specialists
- No spending time in the waiting room
- Improved management of medication, lifestyle, and chronic conditions
- Easier access to preventive care to improve long-term health
- Convenient access to quality care for people with financial and geographic barriers
Limitations of Telemedicine
Even though telemedicine has many advantages, there are some limitations as well. Let’s break them down below.
1. Lack of Equipment
Telemedicine seems simple and easy for us. Patients just have to log in and contact their doctors. However, it’s more complex than that. Telemedicine requires a great deal of equipment and restructuring IT staff. All this takes time and requires a lot of money. Many healthcare institutions across the globe don’t have enough financial power to get on board. This leaves many patients deprived of telemedicine. Also, when not implemented properly, it could affect patients’ experiences.
2. No In-Person Consultations
Technology and telemedicine do simplify the way we communicate with others, including doctors but they also take in-person contact out of the equation. If you’re a patient who prefers in-person conversation with the doctor then telemedicine may not be your cup of tea. Many conditions require a physical exam to ensure treatment is on the right track and that’s not possible with telemedicine.
3. Decreased Care Continuity
Telemedicine allows patients to use on-demand service that connects them with random healthcare providers. In these instances, the care continuity suffers. That happens because that local healthcare provider doesn’t have medical records and other important information about that patient. Diagnosis, disease management, and everything else in healthcare strongly depends on a person’s medical records from previous visits. This problem is easy to resolve with improved data solutions in healthcare.
Telemedicine allows patients to get immediate access to doctors without travelling, driving, and taking time off work or family responsibilities. Alongside numerous advantages, telehealth medicine has some limitations as well. These limitations are manageable and we can expect to see them resolved as this type of healthcare service gains bigger momentum. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine proves to be the only option for many patients to get in touch with their healthcare providers.