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Pros and Cons of Telehealth

Jun 14, 2022

Pros and Cons of Telehealth

Normally, doctors and other health care providers care for their patients in person at a facility such as an office, clinic, or hospital. Thanks to computers, smartphones, and other new digital technologies, healthcare professionals can now diagnose, treat, and oversee their patients' care virtually.

Telehealth is defined as the delivery of health care services at a distance with technology. It can include everything from conducting medical visits over the computer, to monitoring patients' vital signs remotely. Its definition is broader than that of telemedicine, which only includes the remote delivery of health care. Telehealth also includes the training and continuing education of medical professionals.

According to a recent Cisco global survey, 74% of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services over in-person interactions with providers. In today’s healthcare world, convenience is key, and this is one of the advantages of telemedicine and telehealth.

Some of the pros of telehealth are:

  1. Access to healthcare professionals in rural areas - One of the main reasons for the recent expansion in telehealth services is due to the decline in traditional access to healthcare in rural areas. First, from a logistics perspective, it could take hours of travel to visit a provider, and there are fewer public transportation options available. Second, there’s a shortage of providers in many rural areas. Almost 20% of the US population lives in rural areas, but less than 8% of physicians practice there. This makes it difficult for rural communities to receive care and services, so they often don’t.
  2. Reduced costs for patients and providers – a recent study found that the average cost of a virtual visit is $40 to $50 per visit. That’s almost four times lower than the average cost of an in-person visit according to the same study. The savings can be even greater for the patient when the cost of time and transportation is added in. The savings for these incidental expenses average $43 per visit for the patient.
  3. Time savings for the patient – A study by the Harvard Medical School found a typical doctor visit consumes 37 minutes in travel, 64 minutes of filling out forms and sitting in the waiting room, and 20 more minutes seeing the doctor. This adds up to a total of two hours on average for a visit. Travel may take even more time for those in rural areas or those who rely on public transportation.
  4. Reduces potential spread of illness – Don’t sick people need to see their doctors? Yes, but keeping contagious people out of the doctor’s office or hospital helps reduce the spread of illness. Other patients sitting near a contagious person can unwittingly pick up illness while having an in-person visit.

Let’s look at some of the cons of telehealth:

  1. Requires internet service and smart devices. 10% of Americans still don’t use the internet. These services also heavily rely on a good online connection that not everyone has. If either the patient or physician loses connection, then the entire visit comes to a halt. This could lengthen or even postpone the appointment.
  2. Potential generational differences in use of technology – Technology is a second language to the younger generation. However, older generations are not as open, or trusting, of these services. This is an obvious barrier for elderly patients using these services, even though it would benefit them since they may struggle with getting to the doctor.
  3. Problems in patient data security - Conducting appointments online adds a security risk to patient information. Online data is hackable. If a cyber-criminal gets into a patient’s account, they might have access to all of the user’s medical records.

These are some of the factors to consider in the use of telehealth and telemedicine. We live in a rapidly expanding and changing world. Some of us embrace these changes and some of us would prefer to keep things the way they are. The choices are out there. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling