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The Pros and Cons of Using Telemedicine as a Patient

By Dr. Sherri L. Dehaas

To Use or Not to Use: The Pros and Cons of Using Telemedicine as a Patient


Telemedicine refers to any clinical health services administered to patients remotely via telecommunications technology. While it has been in practice for years in obvious ways, such as receiving a phone consultation from your doctor, we are now starting to see a turn towards a more technology-based system for healthcare. This change towards telemedicine can improve the quality of patient care, achieve time savings for patients, and provide treatment for patients in distant locations.


Advantages of Telemedicine


·        Convenience of Remote Treatment

The convenience of being remotely treated with telemedicine is one of its most alluring features. People who may lack time, transportation, or health to make it to a doctor’s appointment can be treated immediately in the comfort of their home. The ability to provide healthcare remotely is a huge advantage for patients who live in inaccessible locations or areas where specialists or medical practitioners are scarce, as telemedicine provides instant clinical care without the hassle of driving to a large urban center to find a doctor.


·        Simplicity of Site Navigation

Telemedicine software is created to be user friendly and simple for a patient to navigate. You can look for a physician, request your appointment and be seen promptly for your consultation. Patient portals, electronic health records and the need to document every aspect of an appointment make it incredibly easy for patients to view their health records, keep track of their condition, access any blood work or other tests that have been done and maintain constant communication with their doctors.


·        Ease of Communication

The ease of communication between doctors, patients and specialists is also a great feature of telemedicine. For example, you walk into the doctor’s office and you are diagnosed with an ear infection. You get your referral to an otolaryngologist and have to wait for their next available appointment time, which could be weeks away! With the advent of communication tools like conference calls both your physician and a specialist can be on the line with you to discuss your ailment holistically. You can obtain fast treatment for any specialty care required, request follow up appointments, ask any questions and receive information directly from specialists effortlessly with the communication channels available through telemedicine.


·        Accessibility

The accessibility of telemedicine makes it easy for almost anyone to receive care. In this day and age most patients are equipped with some method of telecommunication technology, be it a smartphone or a computer, thereby allowing anyone to receive a consultation. Gone is the need for an urgent care visit or a long wait in the ER to be seen for a simple head cold or infection. So long as you’ve got a device with Internet and a web camera you’ve got all the tools needed to treat those common maladies.



Potential Downsides of Telemedicine


·        Health Coverage and Out of Pocket Expenses

Whether health insurance covers your telemedicine appointment or not depends on the state, therefore checking with your healthcare provider is a must. Most doctors who see patients virtually charge a convenience fee that can range from $25-$125 which is out of pocket. While this cost is an extra expense that you may not incur with a regular doctor’s visit, the charge is often offset by the convenience of not having to request time off work, factor in transportation and the typical wait time in doctor’s offices. For most patients it all depends on how much your virtual doctor costs you per visit and the value you put on your time.


·        Impersonal

As patient consultations take place entirely over some form of telecommunication technology, be it over the phone or via video conferencing, you do experience a less personal touch. There is no physical examination that can take place, which can leave patients with a feeling of a less than thorough check-up. However, during an online consultation there is a more thorough knowledge of the diagnosis in terms of written descriptions in a patient’s health record and research of previous health history.  The ease of scheduling follow-ups and monitoring any persisting health conditions seems to outweigh this con for most patients.


In a world where technology is growing exponentially, the expansion of telemedicine and the advantages to using this method for patients will largely supersede it’s cons. It is an efficient and convenient alternative to in person visits and while it will not entirely replace the need to see a doctor for physical examinations, it is creating a more effective way of dealing with patient overflow and of delivering quality care for minor injuries, patients with chronic problems, and after treatment follow ups.


Have you used telehealth solutions to diagnose and treat a medical problem? Tell us about your experience in the comment box below or book an online doctor now.

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