The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine
If you’ve never heard of telemedicine before, it’s only a matter of time. What’s the big hype all about? Telemedicine is basically what it sounds like—getting healthcare and receiving doctors’ consultations via any sort of telephone or web connection. Yes, that’s right. Through telehealth services, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home if you’re seeking health advice for many common ailments. As you can imagine, the benefits of telemedicine are far reaching for everyone, no matter the stage of life. However, telemedicine can’t replace all face-to-face medical care. Take a look at the following bullet points to learn the pros and cons of telemedicine:
- More convenient. Thanks to telemedicine technology, telehealth care is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can call or video conference from home, work, or on the road.
- Saves money. Recently, the American Hospital Association reported on a telemedicine program that saved 11 percent in costs and more than tripled ROI for investors. On average, a doctor in a traditional office setting must charge $125–$150 to earn $20–$30. The difference between what’s charged and what the doctors earn per visit goes toward paying the overhead costs associated with running a doctor’s office. It’s therefore quite obvious that the cost of telemedicine is lower than the cost of keeping up a doctor’s office.
- Immediate access regardless of location. What if you’re on vacation and need medical advice from your doctor three states away? That doesn’t pose any sort of problem with telemedicine. Where you are doesn’t matter when it comes to telemedicine in healthcare.
- Makes follow-ups easier. Most of the time, a follow-up appointment is a way to check that everything is going okay. It’s often quick and to the point. Why go into a doctor’s office for a two-minute checkup when you could easily do the same thing over a video call? Telemedicine makes follow-ups easier for both the doctor and the patient.
- Improved timeliness of care. The average appointment wait time for all specialties is 18.5 days. And the wait time for an appointment with a family practice? Try 19.5 days.
- Physical analysis challenging. Since you’re not physically there with the doctor, he or she cannot closely examine the affected area, make contact with it, or take any readings. Of course, if you are doing a video conference, he or she can still look at you or the affected area, but it might not be a crystal-clear picture. Therefore, the doctor may not actually be able to make a diagnosis.
- Training and equipment. Training staff and getting the right equipment takes time and money, which are valuable resources. Medical facilities planning on implementing telemedicine need to have the proper equipment and the people that know how to use it if it’s going to be a successful endeavor.
- Technical problems. Poor broadband connections could lead to patient problems if a video call is disconnected in the middle of a consultation. Constant disruption due to network problems is not only a nuisance, but it makes it impossible for the doctor to fully understand what’s going on.
- Complex policies. Reimbursement and healthcare policies surrounding telemedicine can get complicated. Traditional healthcare is complex enough, but add telemedicine to the mix and you add a whole new level of complication. Hopefully, the longer telemedicine is around, the easier it will be to include in healthcare policies.
Despite the cons just listed, the telemedicine industry is doing quite well. In fact, it’s worth $17.8 billion, and it’s expected to grow 18.4 percent annually from 2015–2020. Plus, it’s popular among healthcare users. According to a recent Cisco global survey, 74 percent of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services over in-person interactions with providers. It’s more convenient, plain and simple. According to Wellness Council of America, 70 percent of all physician visits can be handled over the phone and 40 percent of urgent care visits can be managed using telehealth.
Examples of How Telemedicine is Used Effectively
Telemedicine isn’t just talking to a healthcare professional through a video on your computer. It encompasses so much more. Here are three examples of ways that telehealth is being used to help people everywhere with various health issues:
- With the help of at-home monitoring devices, more than 3,000 congestive heart failure patients in a Boston-based program were able to stay in the comfort of their own home and still receive watchful care. These devices sent updates to a healthcare facility of their weight, blood pressure, and other vital metrics. The program ultimately reduced readmissions among the participating patient population by 44 percent.
- People with skin problems in the San Diego area are receiving help from dermatologists who are treating more patients by reviewing images and patient information uploaded and sent to them over a secure server. Since they don’t have to see every patient in person, they can help many more people than would be possible without this kind of technology.
- Thanks to telehealth technology in the ICU, the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester has seen a 20 percent decrease in mortality and a 30 percent drop in lengths of stay. About 13 percent of all intensive care unit beds in the country are supported by telehealth technology, and that percentage is likely to keep growing. Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare uses telehealth technology to actively monitor patients in 260 ICU rooms across the system and to collaborate with bedside caregivers around the clock.
Types of Telemedicine
Here’s a quick recap of the types of telemedicine:
- Live video conferencing. A live two-way communication between a patient and doctor used to treat common illnesses, to provide psychotherapy sessions, or to see if the patient needs to go to an urgent care or emergency room.
- Store-and-forward videos. A patient’s recorded health history that is transmitted to a healthcare provider who uses Remote patient monitoring. A way to monitor a patient in one location by electronically transferring medical data and vital statistics to a nurse or doctor in another location.
- Medical Imaging. X-rays, CT scans, and other important health-related images are sent quickly (thanks to broadband transmission speeds) to the physicians and specialists who need them immediately.
- Telemedicine Networks. Many hospitals and clinics in the United States use dedicated networks to distribute medical data that enhances every doctor’s ability to provide better treatment and care.
Contact EMI Health Today to Learn More about Our Telemedicine Plans
EMI Health’s telemedicine plan designs are here to help you and your employees gain access to exceptional healthcare. Individual and family telemedicine plans are available to anyone in Arizona or Utah looking for a convenient and secure way of receiving treatment. We also offer individual dental in Utah, individual vision in Utah, individual dental in Arizona, and individual vision in Arizona. Contact us today by calling 1-800-662-5851 or by visiting emihealth.com