Even before the pandemic, an increasing number of clinics, doctor’s offices, psychiatrists, and hospitals were offering telemedicine options for patient care. Due to COVID-19, the number of facilities offering these services skyrocketed. Though the pandemic has begun to slow down and in-person visits have reopened, a number of medical providers have chosen to keep telemedicine options on the table. Telemedicine, in short, is when a health care professional meets with a patient remotely, usually through a video call. There are many pros and cons to this form of meeting, but no matter what, it seems that telemedicine is here to stay. Here are some of the pros and cons of telemedicine.
The Advantages of Telemedicine
For obvious reasons, the vast majority of information you will find online, especially over the past year, will extoll the advantages of telemedicine both during times of increased risk like the COVID-19 pandemic and in more usual times. While the sheer amount of coverage of these advantages may cause you to pause, the real pros of telemedicine should not be underestimated.
According to DaiyaHealthcare.com, telemedicine “quickly addresses health issues, leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced hospital readmission rates.” This advantage holds true even for serious or complex medical conditions. For patients who need a large amount of ongoing care, telemedicine can lessen the stress of constant travel to and from medical professionals.
Telemedicine is also a huge piece of the puzzle in providing increased equity of care. Choosing this option allows for more flexibility, less travel time, and potentially less money spent on gas and childcare. In addition, telemedicine can provide better medical care to people who may find getting medical care in person difficult, such as older adults who may be no longer able to drive, people with disabilities, people who don’t live in or near a large city, and even incarcerated individuals.
Finally, the increased prevalence of telemedicine could easily encourage better preventative care. It’s much easier to simply show up at a scheduled video call than to physically go to a clinic or doctor’s office. In addition, telemedicine hours have the potential to be more flexible, encouraging those who work long or inconvenient hours to take full advantage of preventative medical care.
The Disadvantages of Telemedicine
There are, however, some distinct disadvantages to telemedicine. While this form of medical care is a powerful tool, it comes with the same setbacks as any other new form of care within the medical industry.
Currently, the most pressing disadvantages are the lack of insurance coverage and the vulnerability of patient data. As of now, only 26 states require insurers to cover telemedicine. While there are certain insurers who will cover telemedicine even in states where it isn’t required, greater coverage is certainly necessary. In addition, there are always worries about the vulnerability of patient data, especially since most public and home wi-fi isn’t as protected as the usual medical internet connections.
There is also a concern that implementing telemedicine in the current system will delay emergency care. For example, if standard procedure requires a telemedicine visit before an in-person visit under certain circumstances, there could be unnecessary delays in lab work or even life saving care.
Finally, there’s the simple fact that not all technology is created equal. Choosing the wrong telemedicine platform, struggling with a weak internet connection, or patients using outdated or subpar computers or phones to access their telemedicine appointment will all affect the quality of care provided. Medical professionals will also have to adjust to an entirely new mode of examination, relying on self-reports from their patients rather than detailed observations or physical tests.
Telemedicine is a powerful tool that has proven to be an essential component in many physicians’ toolboxes. By utilizing it in the proper circumstances, telemedicine can help increase the quality of care for all patients.