Benefits and Challenges of Telemedicine

Telemedicine is a healthcare practice that has been in existence since the 1950s. However, the last few decades have seen a sharp increase in the popularity of telemedicine. That is due to rapid technological advancements in smartphones, computers and digital technologies. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has also continued to push consumers to adopt telemedicine.

There are various types of telemedicine, including:

  •       Synchronous telemedicine: Medical experts use technology (computer and telephone) in real-time to provide patient diagnosis and consultation. A doctor may also use technology to consult with specialists in determining the proper treatment approach.
  •       Asynchronous telemedicine: Involves recording and storing medical data (audio, video, and images), which can be accessed immediately or later by a medical professional.

Telemedicine

Patient benefits of telemedicine

1.      Reduces costs

According to research, patients using telemedicine may not have to go for hospital visits or spend less time in in-patient care. Also, since there is less or no commuting, a patient can save some extra coins on gas or childcare.

Generally, the cost of telehealth ranges from $40 to $50 per visit, while in-person visits cost from $135-$180.

2.      Greater healthcare access

Telemedicine improves access to healthcare for disabled and older persons. Moreover, since less than 8% of medical caregivers practice in rural areas in the United States, it is difficult for the people living there to benefit from enhanced healthcare access. Health centers are often fewer, and there is a lot of traveling to reach the nearest center.

Thus, with telemedicine, people living in rural areas can connect with national health providers.

3.      Assists in slowing the spread of an infection

When a patient goes to a doctor’s office, there is a high chance of spreading or getting an infection like COVID-19 due to contact with other patients. Telemedicine eliminates the risk of an infection spreading.

Telemedicine benefits for healthcare providers

The provision of telemedicine services can be beneficial to healthcare providers in the following ways.

  •       Reduction in overhead expenses. For instance, there is less requirement for bigger office space or examination room, and there may be no need for front desk support.
  •       Increase in revenues, mainly since there is a reduction in overhead costs and access to more patients. With telemedicine, doctors can connect with a targeted patient demographic.
  •       Providers are less or not exposed to the contagious illnesses of patients.
  •       Since a patient does not have to travel to the doctor’s office and spend minutes in the waiting room, there may be a boost in the patient happiness and satisfaction with the healthcare provider.

Challenges of telemedicine

Although telemedicine has become popular over the years, that does not mean it does not have its fair share of challenges or issues. Various stakeholders in the telemedicine industry, such as healthcare givers and legislators, continue to work towards addressing the gray areas in the industry.

Consequently, below are some of the main issues of remote diagnosis and treatment.

1.      Cost

The cost of telehealth can be slightly costly because of the convenience and benefits on offer. Some medical practitioners offering telemedicine services charge a convenience fee ranging from $40 to $125 for every visit. As well, all insurers do not cover telemedicine. Currently, only about 27 states demand insurance companies insure/reimburse telemedicine costs.

Using telemedicine also requires that a patient has access to a smartphone and a reliable internet connection.

2.      Digital divide

Technology is like the second language for younger generations, which fuels telemedicine adoption and use. On the other hand, older people tend not to be technologically savvy and have difficulty using telemedicine.

3.      Limitations in patient assessments

Assessment becomes difficult if a clinician has no physical access to a patient. A clinician can only assess what can be seen via technology and rely on the information from the patient. That is why the doctor sometimes requests a patient to visit the clinic for further health assessment.

4.      Different telemedicine regulations

The federal government is still in the process of coming up with solid and comprehensive guidelines for remote diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, different states have different telemedicine regulations. Thus, it may be challenging for patients to access telehealth from specific areas.

5.      Concern about data security

Recording and storing patient data online or digitally can expose them to security risks, particularly from cyber criminals. Health service providers must find ways to keep patient information safe and secure. Since more security measures are required, that can reflect on the cost of telehealth.

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