Telemedicine has been around for years. Its primary use case was for people who lived in rural areas and didn’t have access to physicians. But it has recently grown in popularity and is spreading beyond rural areas.
Before we delve into why telemedicine has grown and what options are available to individuals, let’s take a step back and answer the question, “What is telemedicine?”
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication technology to offer treatment and diagnosis services to individuals from afar. The telecommunication could be as simple as a telephone, but has become increasingly more sophisticated.
Why is Telemedicine Growing?
The biggest factor of the increase in telemedicine has to be the growth in our technology infrastructure and devices. More Americans have high speed internet that allows for high quality video streaming. Smartphones are ubiquitous and speaking to a doctor has become as easy as pulling up an app. These advances in technology have made telemedicine not just more available, but more effective for patients.
A major benefit that telemedicine offers patients is time. Going to the doctor is a time-consuming task that can be unpleasant. Taking time off work, driving to the doctor’s office, waiting in the waiting room, the actual visit, then the drive home. It can be a three hour ordeal for some. That’s too much time to “waste” on a doctor’s appointment. Telemedicine allows patients, like those physically unable to travel or parents with children, the option to save the hassle of travel.
Another big advantage of telemedicine is the cost. It’s more cost efficient than regular doctor visits. Not only with the travel you’re saving on, but the actual cost of the consultation, which tend to be lower than if you were seen in-person.
By 2017, it’s estimated that 71% of healthcare employees will offer video consults through health plans.
What are the Drawbacks?
Not everyone is on board with telemedicine. There are drawbacks that cause people (both patients and medical professionals) to hesitate to get on board with telemedicine.
One is technology glitches. As great as technology has become, it can still have inconvenient glitches. Things like poor video quality can cause trouble with communication. Technology problems can be as simple as either party not being able to properly use a particular app for communication. Especially with older patients (who might get a lot of value from telemedicine), older patients might not know how to use the technology properly.
Another big drawback to telemedicine is that many ailments aren’t as simple as they may appear. This can cause inaccurate diagnoses or generally less than adequate care. There’s a lot to be said for taking the time to physically check up on a patient.
Dr. William Gluckman states, “If you have a stomach ache I want to be able to feel your abdomen, if you have a runny nose I’d like to use my stethoscope and listen to your lungs.”
Where Can I Get Telemedicine Care?
Options for telemedicine are abundant. Your current primary physician might even offer telemedicine options. Here’s seven telemedicine companies you can look into if you’d like to investigate more options.
The world of healthcare is rapidly evolving. We’re living in an era where healthcare is starting to really tap into technological advances. It’s an exciting time for sure. There is no golden rule as to who is a good candidate for telemedicine, it’s a case-by-case basis. But if you are considering it, please do your own individual research to make sure it’s the best choice for you.