Benefits of telemedicine for patients: Get quality healthcare from the comfort of your home
Telemedicine is the use of technology to provide healthcare services remotely. It allows you to talk to your doctor live over the phone or video chat, or send and receive messages using chat messaging or email. You can hear your diagnosis and treatment options firsthand, and avoid commuting and waiting time.
Telemedicine also helps reduce hospital admissions and readmissions, and ensures optimal utilization of resources. Telemedicine is considered a regular healthcare service and should be billable to your health care insurance.
Benefits of telemedicine for patients and doctors
Telemedicine has many benefits for both patients and doctors, such as:
- Easy access to specialists. Not everyone has an ongoing relationship with a doctor they can call when they need one. Many online medical networks offer round-the-clock access to all kinds of specialists, without an appointment, at any time of day or night.
- Lower cost. Doctors and therapists can be expensive, even for people with good health insurance. Telemedicine appointments typically cost less than in-person visits do. This reduces out-of-pocket costs, removing a barrier to care.
- Medical access for people without health insurance. Not having adequate health insurance can be an obstacle to seeing a doctor. Many online companies provide cash-pay telemedicine, which doesn’t require health insurance or referrals.
- Medical access for people in rural areas. Country living has many benefits, but fast access to medical care isn’t always one of them. For people who live many miles from the nearest medical facility, telemedicine provides a way to meet with a doctor quickly. This saves time and allows people to stay off the road when driving conditions are less than optimal, such as during a snowstorm or hailstorm.
- Medical access for people in underserved urban areas. The trend of hospital closures in inner-city neighborhoods has affected thousands of Americans, especially communities of color and people without health insurance. Telemedicine helps break this cycle by providing a way for people to see a doctor before they get extremely sick.
- Reduced exposure to pathogens. Hours-long waits in doctors’ waiting rooms with other patients can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, the flu, and other viruses. Telehealth keeps patients at home, avoiding exposure to viruses and germs. This helps protect medical professionals as well.
- Middle-of-the-night care for babies and children. Babies have a knack for spiking fevers or getting sick in the middle of the night. Rather than rely on an internet search, parents can use telehealth services to connect quickly with doctors who can give answers and provide a diagnosis, and even a prescription, when needed.
- Better assessment. Telemedicine can give some specialty practitioners an advantage because they can see you in your home environment. For example, allergists may be able to identify clues in your surroundings that cause allergies. Neurologists and physical and occupational therapists can observe you and assess your ability to navigate and take care of yourself in your home. Telemedicine is also a good way to get mental health assessment and counseling.
- Family connections. When consulting with your doctor, it’s always good to have a family member who can help you provide information, ask questions and take note of your doctor’s answers. If that person lives out of town, or even across the country, telemedicine can loop your family member in on the virtual visit if you authorize it.
Challenges of telemedicine and how to overcome them
Telemedicine is not without its challenges, however. Some of the common ones are:
- Technical issues. Poor internet connection, lack of universal access to technology, software glitches, and hardware malfunctions can disrupt or prevent telemedicine sessions. To avoid these problems, it is important to test your device and connection before the appointment, use a reliable platform or app, have a backup plan in case of technical failure, and contact technical support if needed.
- Reimbursement issues. Not all insurance companies cover telemedicine services or reimburse them at the same rate as in-person visits. To avoid unexpected bills or denials, you should check with your insurance company before booking a telemedicine appointment, ask about their coverage and copayments, and keep records of your receipts and claims.
- Physical examination limitations. Some conditions or procedures require physical examination or testing that cannot be done remotely, such as blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, or biopsies. To overcome this challenge, you should consult with your provider about the need and availability of physical examination or testing, follow their instructions and recommendations, and seek in-person care if necessary.
- Special population needs. Some groups of patients may have difficulty accessing or using telemedicine services, such as the elderly, the disabled, the low-income, the non-English speakers, and the culturally diverse. To address this challenge, you should seek assistance from family members, friends, or caregivers if needed, ask for translation or interpretation services if available, and communicate your needs and preferences to your provider.
- Training and education gaps. Both patients and providers may lack the skills or knowledge to use telemedicine effectively, such as how to set up the device, how to troubleshoot technical issues, how to communicate clearly and empathetically, and how to document and follow up on the session. To bridge this gap, you should seek training and education from reliable sources, such as your provider, your insurance company, your telemedicine platform or app, or online resources.
- Doctor-patient relationship challenges. Telemedicine may affect the quality and continuity of the doctor-patient relationship, such as reducing eye contact, body language, rapport, trust, and satisfaction. To maintain a strong and positive relationship with your provider, you should be respectful, honest, attentive, and cooperative during the session, provide feedback and ask questions if needed, and follow up on your treatment plan and outcomes.
- Acceptability issues. Some patients or providers may be reluctant or resistant to use telemedicine services, due to lack of awareness, familiarity, confidence, or comfort with the technology or the mode of delivery. To increase your acceptability of telemedicine, you should be open-minded and flexible about trying new ways of getting healthcare, weigh the pros and cons of telemedicine versus in-person care, and share your experiences and opinions with others.
Telemedicine is a convenient and beneficial way of getting quality healthcare from the comfort of your home. It can save you time, money, and hassle while providing you access to a wide range of specialists and services. However, telemedicine also has some challenges that need to be addressed and overcome.
You can make the most of your telemedicine experience and enjoy its advantages. If you are interested in trying telemedicine for yourself or your loved ones, you can search for a reputable online medical network or ask your regular provider if they offer telemedicine options. You may be surprised by how easy and effective it is to get healthcare through technology.