A Complete Guide To Telemedicine : Benefits, Risks and Challenges for Practitioners and Patients

How many times have you been too busy to make it to your health visits? Today, we are all living fast-paced lives with hectic schedules, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make time for everything. Unfortunately, doctors’ appointments have ended up being at the losing end of our priority list. Health, however, should not be taken lightly, as we have recently learnt in the wake of COVID-19. The need for Digital Health Solutions today is far more than there was ever before. Telemedicine benefits outweigh by far any risks that may arise. This highlights the importance of telemedicine solutions, which enables doctors to take their practices from the confines of their neighbourhoods to unlimited patients around the globe.

Telemedicine in the Light of COVID-19

Telemedicine used to be especially advantageous for patients in remote areas, or when patients were at a distance, and did not have access to proper medical attention when they needed it. In this time of terror, however, the pandemic has forced everyone into solitude and people are outweighing the risks of going to the doctor to get treated and risk getting infected with the coronavirus, or staying home and risk getting worse. Telemedicine is the perfect solution to this conundrum and Telehealth visits actually rose by 50% during the pandemic. COVID-19 has turned out to be an ironic benefit of the Telehealth industry.

Telemedicine Benefits

There are countless advantages of telemedicine, whether we talk of benefitting the practitioners or benefits of Telehealth for patients. Both sides benefit from the technology that enables them to make it to their appointments while staying in their comfort zones.

Top Benefits of Telemedicine for Doctors and Health Practitioners

  1. Reduced no-show margin
    With their busy schedules, people are taking less and less care of themselves and very often don’t show up for their appointments. Telehealth benefits make sure that more people are showing up to their virtual appointments because they don’t have to find sitters for their children or caretakers for their elderly, or even just walk away from other tasks.
  2. Higher Returns
    Having scheduled time slots saves a lot of time and virtual appointments save the no-show margin. Hence Telemedicine enables health workers to check a lot more patients than they would be able to at a physical clinic. More appointments mean more returns. Since telemedicine is global and someone somewhere in the world keeps needing a doctor, you are only limited by how long you are able to work. 
  3. Cost-Effectiveness
    Telemedicine definitely means lower costs because you don’t have to operate your physical practice every day. Depending on the type of doctor you are, you may not even need a clinic.
  4. Convenience
    Yet another benefit of telehealth is convenience. There is no better job than one where you can earn while sitting in the comfort of your homes and that is exactly the convenience that telemedicine offers you. 
  5. Flexible Hours
    With telemedicine, doctors can choose their own working hours and spread them over the whole day if they wish so. There is no issue of night and day either because there is always day time in some time zone.
  6. Increased Efficiency in Diagnosis
    Telemedicine software enables integration with third-party software and gadgets like Glucometers and Fitbit, which help transport information directly to the doctors and assists them in making a timely diagnosis and makes decision making more efficient.
  7. Improved Workflow Management

By splitting the workflow between primary and speciality healthcare providers, telemedicine can not only increase the screening rate but also reduce wait time for patients. Primary healthcare providers can use telemedicine to prescreen patients before they go for a physical visit to speciality care providers. Healthcare providers can even use chatbots who can chat and prescreen patients instead.

8. Minimized Risk to Doctors
This is a very important benefit of telehealth because of the current COVID-19 situation where doctors are exposed and at a lot of risk of getting infected. Telemedicine reduces that risk and still lets them perform their duty and save lives.

Top Benefits of Telemedicine for Patients

  1. Better Health Outcomes for Patients
    Patients come more readily for virtual appointments whether they’re regular health visits or following up on previous appointments. This wasn’t the case when their only option was to schedule an appointment and physically go to the doctor. Regularly going for appointments means better overall health.
  2. Improved Access to Medical Attention
    Even if patients are in a distant remote area with no healthcare facility, the only thing stopping them from accessing quality healthcare is a smartphone.Telemedicine have drastically improved access to specialized medical attention for patients in distant remote areas.
  3. Reduced Exposure to Illness
    This is especially true for the current scenario where people are being told to stay home to keep themselves safe from being exposed. A hospital is the one place where all germs pay a visit and not having to go to one definitely reduces the risk of getting exposed to an illness.
  4. Faster Further Testing
    If further testing needs to be prescribed for example bloodwork or an MRI, the patient doesn’t have to keep paying physical visits to the doctor.
  5. Saving Cost and Time

A lot of time is saved when physical visits to the doctor become redundant and that time can be spent doing something else. It also saves costs like transport cost.

Telemedicine Risks and Challenges

Even with all the advantages of telemedicine, it does not come without its own set of risks and challenges. According to Forbes, only 2% of around 600 million visits to a primary care provider are via telemedicine platforms. This reflects the impact risks have had on the industry.

  1. Malpractice Complications
    This can be an issue because even though the location is an advantage since the doctor and patient can be different parts of the world, complications can arise if a patient wants to file a suit against his doctor. Different countries have different laws regarding things.
  2. Privacy Breach
    Medical data is protected under a lot of laws including HIPAA and HITECH. Since the appointments happen over the internet, there can be a risk of breach of sensitive patient data.
  3. Incorrect Diagnosis and Prescription
    Since the doctor is not able to physically check the patient, there is a chance of incorrectly diagnosing the patient and hence prescribing wrong medicine. 
  4. Reimbursement
    This is a challenge for both practitioners and patients. Managed Care Organizations are wary of reimbursement for telemedicine practices because they know that the cost will be a lot higher than people going for traditional checkups. Similarly, patients who are on a corporate panel will be wary of telemedicine as opposed to traditional clinics because they’re not sure if they will be reimbursed.
  5. Internet Glitches

There is always a risk of the internet going down and the appointment going to waste right in the middle of an important diagnosis. One should always keep back-ups just in case.

In conclusion, especially today, telemedicine benefits definitely outweigh any challenges that it may incur because the cost of not going to the doctor and risking your health is too much and should not be one that you are willing to take. Moreover, technology is constantly evolving and will soon counter the risks and challenges that are present.

FAQS

What are some of the benefits of telemedicine for Chronic Disease?

Chronic disease is one that needs long term management. No one likes going to the doctor again and again for the same problem. Telemedicine lets the patient keep regularly scheduled appointments where the Doctor and patient can work out a pain management plan and a plan to tackle the disease. Other benefits include monitoring patients remotely with smart gadgets, quick detection of new symptoms, and reduced chances of being admitted to the hospital.

When should I use telemedicine apart from COVID-19 pandemic?

Telehealth benefits do not just apply to the pandemic and the situation nowadays. It simply gives you a wider choice and the option to stay at home and still visit the doctor without having to go. It can be useful when for some reason you can’t leave the house or you’re in a remote area and you don’t have adequate healthcare facilities.

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