03 February 2021

The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Submitted by Linda Janse Van Vuuren
The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Introduction to Telemedicine 


Telemedicine technology was invented as a way for health professionals to treat their patients who stays in remote places, far away from local health facilities or who live in areas where there is a shortage of medical professionals. While telemedicine is still used by doctors and other health professionals to address these kinds of problems, it’s increasingly, especially now in the time of Covid, fast becoming a tool for beneficial medical care. Most patients today prefer to spend less time in a doctor’s waiting room and get immediate care for minor, but for them, urgent conditions when they need it.

In most of the cases, telemedicine is a net benefit.  It broadens the access patients have to quality medical care, especially in the rural areas and underserved populations that need it the most. Telemedicine provides a way for us to cut down on healthcare spending and to engage today’s connected patient. It has the undeniable potential to change healthcare as we know it for the better.

However, telemedicine also has a few disadvantages — mostly by nature of its virtual interaction, and because of societal and societal barriers that could change in the future. But there is also good news! With the growing popularity and widespread acceptance of telemedicine, we will most probably see the cons of telemedicine resolve themselves in time. As technology advances and current policies shift towards accepting/supporting telemedicine there are organizations that strives continuously to find ways to improve telemedicine and make it a viable, even advantageous form of healthcare delivery for many medical scenarios.  


(You might be looking for EHR or Electronic medical records)  


Here are the top Pros and Cons of Telemedicine: 


Pros of Telemedicine 


1. Telemedicine provides more convenient and accessible care for patients


The driving force behind telemedicine is the fact that it is more convenient and accessible for patients. Telemedicine is used widely throughout the world, whether it is to provide basic healthcare in third-world countries or to allow patients with mobility issues to see the doctor from their homes. Telemedicine has the power to break down the geographical barriers to quality healthcare access and to make the entire healthcare delivery model more convenient to patients.What is more is that Telemedicine has the power to cut healthcare spending by reducing problems like unnecessary ER visits, medication non-adherence and making typical doctor visits more efficient.


2. Telemedicine extends access to consults from specialists


Telemedicine affords a medical practice or hospital system the opportunity to immediately expand access to niche medical specialists if necessary. It is undoubtedly a great benefit that makes it easy for doctors to consult medical specialists on a patient’s case and for cancer patients to see a needed specialist on a rare form of cancer, no matter where they live. It allows for staff at small hospitals without adequate radiology specialists, to outsource evaluation of x-rays via telemedicine. 


3. Telemedicine increases patient engagement


We live in an increasingly connected world and as with everything else expects a different kind of health care experience. Telemedicine allows patients to connect with their doctors more frequently, in a convenient way. It means that more and more questions are asked and answered, a stronger doctor-patient relationship are being established and patients feel empowered to manage their health care. 


4. Telemedicine affords better quality patient care


Telemedicine makes it a lot easier for health care providers to follow-up with patients and make sure that everything is going well. Whether health care providers are using a more extensive remote patient monitoring system to watch their patient’s heart or doing a video chat with a patient to answer any medication questions that may arise after the patient has been discharged from hospital – telemedicine leads to better care outcomes. 


The Cons of Telemedicine 


1. Telemedicine requires technical training and equipment


Telemedicine platforms usually require training and equipment purchases. How much you may ask?  It depends on the solution – an extensive inpatient telemedicine platform that will be used between primary care doctors and consulting specialists may require some more training and the buying of a telemedicine cart and different mobile health devices. 


2. There are telemedicine models that may reduce continuity of care


Consumer-facing Telemedicine companies that offer the huge benefit of on-demand care for patients, meaning that a sick patient can simply login online and request a visit with one of the telemedicine company’s doctors and get treatment. However, this model, can lead to a breakdown in care continuity. A doctor who does not know the patient, does not know their whole medical history.  What would the best approach to telemedicine then be one may ask? The answer to that probably lies in providing health care providers with the necessary tools to easily connect with their own patients. 


3. May reduce in-person interactions with doctors. 


There are critics who argue that online telemedicine interactions are impersonal, and what about physical exams that are often necessary to make a full diagnosis? If more and more patients resort to online interactions in place of in-person visits, what will the long-term effects be? In-person patient-doctor visits are clearly preferable and necessary in many circumstances. Telemedicine is best used to supplement these in-person visits – to do a simple check-in with a patient and make sure everything is going well. For minor acute conditions, an in-person visit with an established patient is often not necessary.  In those cases, telemedicine is a great tool that can save the patient, the doctor, and the healthcare system time and money. 


4. To navigate the changing policy and reimbursement landscape can be quite tricky


Telemedicine reimbursement can be a difficult topic.

The best way to navigate the reimbursement is to call up your healthcare provider and medical scheme and get the correct details from them.

Change is always tough and if there’s any industry ripe for change in this country, it’s our healthcare. No one will dispute the ever-growing call for improvement, advancement and innovation in the healthcare space which has brought technology to the forefront of the push for greater care quality, efficiency, and affordability.

Published in Health and Medicine