How straightforward does it get to speak with a physician about your ailment over a phone call or video conference in your desk, instead of going through the motions of an in-clinic visit?
Telemedicine has made care on demand possible and accessible, particularly in rural areas where medical facilities or specialists are far. This form of diagnosis and treatment that centers on remote patient monitoring has been around for decades; however, its presence has been magnified by ready access to phones, tablets, and desktops.
From their end, health-care providers who offer remote consultations must also be adequately equipped. One example of a video conferencing platform is Cisco TelePresence SX80 Codec, which powers the audio and video quality with a Precision 60 camera. This technology and compliant software form a typical telemedicine setup.
With this setup, telemedicine is poised for greater things in the fields of patient care and continuing education for medical professionals. But every matter always has a good side and a bad side for recipients of the service like you.
Table of Contents
The Advantages of Telemedicine
On-demand consultations mean access to basic health services anytime, anywhere. People who are home bound or have little time to spare for a visit to the clinic can secure an appointment and then a virtual meeting with their physicians.
Before video calls have become popular, some hospitals or clinics routinely check on their outpatients and transmit information over the phone. It’s one of the first uses of telemedicine with specific equipment set up at the home of a patient to collect and transmit data.
Video consultations are ideal for diagnosing and treating common conditions like colds, joint pains, and allergies. They also facilitate fast answers to immediate questions about medications and other medical concerns and work well as follow-up checkup.
2. Saves Time and Energy
The traditional way of meeting a physician for 15 minutes or so entails a lot of time to prepare and leave home, drive or commute, and wait for your turn. Telemedicine cuts the time and effort to move elsewhere; the appointment can fit right into your day.
You can now skip the waiting room, which can be a hotbed of diseases, and expedite access to medical care. Some health facilities do offer emergency telemedicine solutions.
A remote consultation is cheaper than an in-office visit—a win-win situation for patients and providers. Private health facilities may be encouraged to offer telemedicine with statewide parity laws that compel commercial insurers and Medicaid (as in the case of New York) to reimburse telehealth services as if they’ve been delivered in person.
The American Telemedicine Association monitors the adoption of telemedicine parity laws or policies in states. Refer to this page for more updates. Also, check with your insurer if it covers telehealth costs.
Telemedicine practitioners are required to comply with HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, to ensure the privacy of patient data. Providers have to follow the guidelines of the act that cover authorized access to medical records and general protected health information (PHI).
Although communicating with your doctor has never been easier, laws protect the way your patient data is delivered to you.
The Not-So-Good Side
1. Not All Diseases Are Covered
One limitation of telemedicine is not meant to diagnose all diseases; the doctor needs to see the patient up close to make an assessment. A remote session is not a substitute for a full physical examination that insurance carriers or HMOs can require periodically.
2. Susceptible to Outside Factors
Because communication is done electronically, you can expect certain factors that can affect, disrupt, or worse, terminate the call. Some examples are poor internet connection, power outage, and weather disturbance.
3. Not All Doctors Offer Telehealth Options
You are surprised to learn that a doctor does not offer remote consultation. One leading cause is the cost of outfitting the facility. Smaller clinics and hospitals may not be able to afford the setup and maintenance of the telemedicine system. It’s plausible, however, that more health-care providers will join the bandwagon as the US telemedicine market is expected to grow, spurred by demands for virtual health care.
4. Lack of Human Touch
It’s a common criticism for any technological advancement, including telemedicine. This lack of human connection can pose a problem for some patients who are used to interact with their physicians in person. It can be more reassuring to see your doctor confirm that you are doing fine personally, instead of a video screen where nuances may be lost.
A Work in Progress
Telemedicine is evolving and may be undergoing improvements as we speak. For now, it fills the gap for accessible and affordable health care.