The Advantages and Disadvantages of Telemedicine

Johannes Beekman

Awareness has spread quickly about telemedicine due to the pandemic. It's simply an effective solution to meeting patient demands, while reducing in-person hospital visits. Telemedicine also helps resolve many issues surrounding in-person visits, especially those regarding social distancing or faster care for urgent medical matters.

Here's a look at the advantages and challenges for a hospital to adopt telehealth.

Major Advantages of Telehealth

  1. Convenience and Access - Greater convenience for patients will be a driving force for the growth of telemedicine in the coming years. Patients will also have better access to health consultations, treatment, and medical advice.
  2. Lower Costs and Greater Savings - Remote monitoring and analysis can lower costs for both hospital and patients. Monitoring connected devices worn by patients gives doctors more data to work with and the ability to make faster decisions. Additionally, digital communication can reduces the need for hospital visits that cost patients time and hospitals space in their waiting rooms.
  3. More Access to Specialists - Doctors are now able to share data with specialists more seamlessly, regardless of location. This also means that patients no longer have to wait days or weeks to connect with a specialist, as they can get answers to questions in real-time from an automated assistant.
  4. Better Patient Interaction - Doctors can engage more with patients through email, messaging, and virtual meetings. The more the patient and doctor interact digitally, the better the chances are of diagnosing an illness quickly and achieving faster recovery.
  5. Higher Quality Patient Care - Telehealth allows for real-time urgent care sessions, which can accelerate treatment options for patients. The faster pace of healthcare can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Telemedicine Challenges to Consider

Not all healthcare operations are in a position to invest the large amount of capital it requires to implement new technologies for telehealth services. Hospitals already invest substantially in medical equipment and other costly resources.

Another major challenge is the fact that the learning curve for telehealth technologies can be fairly steep, and it may take staff members quite some time to learn how to use them effectively and efficiently.

Here are a few other key challenges to adopting telehealth:

  1. Less Physical Contact - Patients have been used to seeing a doctor in person throughout their lives, and many have built familiarity and trust with their doctors because of this. In some cases, a patient only wants to share confidential details about their health with a doctor they trust in person. Furthermore, certain treatments require a physical visit.
  2. Patient Familiarity with Medical Staff - From a patient's perspective, doctors and nurses who know their medical history have a better understanding of their needs. They may feel uneasy about the quality of medical advice given from a stranger on the internet.
  3. Tighter Security Needed - Another important concern for hospitals and patients about telemedicine is data privacy. The more hospitals venture into big data, the higher the risk becomes that some of this data will end up in the wrong hands. Hospitals must step up their investment in cybersecurity to ensure government compliance and the protection of confidential information of their patients.

The Next Phase for Telehealth

Telehealth is already a $45 billion industry and will experience nearly 20 percent growth by 2026. It's important for healthcare organizations to review their current limitations and consider preparing for technological upgrades that support telehealth.

However, it’s imperative to consider the pros and cons of telehealth and before committing the large investment it takes to implement it.

Clearly, companies that adopt this model for delivering healthcare will have a competitive edge. But it doesn't mean those that don't will be left behind, because choices for medical treatment are ultimately left up to consumers. The fact that the new digital direction for healthcare will raise patient satisfaction in multiple ways is a compelling enough reason to, at least, explore it.

Conclusion

The age of telemedicine has arrived, and healthcare organizations must decide how this emerging model for faster, more convenient and affordable healthcare fits with their existing infrastructure. Certain organizations are in better position than others to take the telehealth model to the next level, but those who aren’t at that stage currently should still consider it a possibility for the future.
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