Over time, as Internet connections improved and bandwidth restrictions decreased, telemedicine began as a way of delivering medical services via audio, text messaging, or video communication technology. The types of medicine that are practiced via telemedicine can include psychology, dermatology, and even emergency care.
Although telemedicine can improve your well-being, it presents both benefits and risks. Let us discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of telemedicine that you should consider before putting your health at stake.
The Good: 3 Benefits of Telemedicine
First, let’s look at the ways telemedicine can improve the care you receive.
Decreased exposure to infectious disease
You can use telemedicine to avoid the risk of infection and help control the spread of diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the flu.
By scheduling an appointment with your doctor using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, you will not need to go to the hospital or office. This means you’ll be less likely to encounter someone else’s germs and if you do get sick you’ll be less likely to spread them.
The reduced risk is particularly beneficial for those who are immunocompromised, including pregnant women, those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.
In 2021, the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that telemedicine use increased 63 times during the pandemic. This allowed health practitioners to continue supporting patients even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Sometimes going to the doctor’s office can be an uncomfortable experience, especially for serious medical conditions. For this reason, another advantage of telemedicine is the ability to receive support from family members while accessing health services.
This includes the ability for family members to attend medical consultations even if they live in a different city from the patient. This can be especially beneficial for older adults who may have trouble remembering details. In these situations, trusted family members can help on behalf of the patient by asking questions, remembering instructions, or giving the doctor background information about the patient.
Better access to care
According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, people living in rural areas are more sick than those living in urban areas. A contributing factor may be that 18% of Canadians live in rural areas, with only 8% of all physicians practicing in rural communities.
According to a report from the Government of Canada, living in a rural area leads to less access to specialized medical care. Due to shortages of doctors, nurses, and other practitioners, people living in rural environments may not have access to primary care or specialized services, which can affect mortality, life expectancy, and vulnerability in early childhood development.
Using telemedicine, people living in remote or rural areas can access medical assistance, secure prescriptions, receive a diagnosis, and improve their overall health. The positive impact that telemedicine can have on your mental health should not be overlooked.
Downsides: 3 Risks of Telemedicine
Of course, nothing is without drawbacks. Carefully consider some of these negatives about using telemedicine.
Risk 1: Standard of Care
The standard of care pertains to the treatment process a doctor must follow for each patient he sees. While some patients may have conditions that can be diagnosed over the phone or via video chat, this is not always the case. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggests that the use of telemedicine has increased rapidly during the pandemic, but more research is needed to understand the impact on the quality of care patients receive.
In many traditional family practices, doctors see patients in an exam room equipped with basic diagnostic equipment. Telemedicine may sacrifice the standard of care simply by lacking basic diagnostic tools, such as the equipment doctors use to take your blood pressure, probe your ear canals, and listen to your heartbeat.
Risk 2: Potential technical issues
In the US, health care providers must ensure that telemedicine technology complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law is designed to protect your medical records and personal health information. However, during the pandemic, several jurisdictions in the US relaxed the rules to ensure that people can access treatment.
Even when using the best health care techniques to improve your health, there are risks with any device that transmits sensitive information over the Internet. Websites and mobile apps may be designed to protect your information, but software can have serious flaws that hackers can take advantage of to put your sensitive health data at risk.