Telehealth: What are the Pros and Cons?

Kacey Whitlock

Author

Telehealth-and-healthy-living

Telehealth is a growing option in the field of medicine. This is good news for patients who cannot access healthcare in a traditional setting. There are many reasons patients do not go to see doctors even when they need attention. They may suffer from chronic illness, live in a rural area, or have no access to transportation. For patients like these, telehealth has many benefits.

Like anything else, however, it also has drawbacks. In 2013, telemedicine was a $240 million industry. In 2018, it has reached $17 billion. With its services projected to expand by 18 percent every year, it is a good idea to compare the pros and cons of telehealth.

Telehealth Pros

Easy and Quick Accessibility

One of the top telehealth benefits is that it is easily and instantly accessible. Patients have immediate access to a wide variety of providers, including specialists. They also avoid excessive wait times or transportation expenses. These are especially helpful for people who have difficulty accessing traditional medical facilities.

Working online on a shared platform also means that doctors enjoy streamlined communication. Specialists can offer second opinions in record time. Medical professionals can share test results via email or patient portals. This makes it possible for doctors to consult within minutes.

The instant accessibility is helpful for patients needing frequent checkups for follow-up appointments. This usually requires a simple conversation about an ongoing management plan. This makes it an ideal scenario for telecommunication. A telehealth service is a wonderful way to cut back on costs, patient wait times, and overcrowding.

Telemedicine is also helpful for patients who need frequent communication with their doctor. These people might be adjusting to life with a new health condition or learning to use a new medical device. They can connect with their doctor and continue with their day without disruption.

Another amazing development in the field of telehealth is telemetry. This is the remote monitoring of patient vitals. Patients use a medical device at home to read heart activity, blood pressure, or other vitals. These recordings are then sent to a computer at a remote medical facility in real-time. If monitors register an unusual reading, they alert on-site professionals to contact the patient. Telemetry is an excellent choice for patients who need frequent care but struggle with medical appointments or hospital stays. Examples of patients like these include the elderly living at assisted living facilities and the homebound.

save-money-with-telehealth

Reduced Costs

Telehealth is an amazingly effective money saver. Estimates say it saves medical facilities an average of 11 percent on costs and triples investors’ ROI. Electronic data storage reduces the need for office staff and equipment. It also streamlines productivity by storing all a patient’s information online. Remote monitoring and online consultations reduce the need for staffing. One medical professional can serve dozens of patients remotely. Since they can consult from anywhere, including their own home, they cut the cost of office space.

Telehealth also reduces costs by streamlining productivity in an effective way. Doctors who are on-call are paid for their time and deal with less overhead when working from home. Online services also cut back on patient issues, such as missed appointments. Moreover, the increasing attraction of telehealth services tends to draw a steady stream of new patients.

There are also reduced costs on an individual standpoint. Patients do not pay copays, which means telehealth services also save insurance companies money.

Moreover, telehealth services are significant in reducing the number of hospital admissions. Hospitals are frequently overcrowded, leading to poorer care and the premature discharge of patients. Telemedicine gives alternatives to patients who usually seek primary care at a hospital. This means it may be the answer to the doctor shortage in the United States, which estimates place at 61,700 minimum

Telehealth-pros

Encourages Healthy Lifestyle and Patient Engagement

Another telehealth benefit is encouraging patient initiative in seeking services. When patients are committed to seeking medical care, they are more likely to see long-term success. Ease of access makes it simple to stick to appointments and follow medical advice. It also helps patients ask questions immediately instead of keeping them for a later appointment. It also helps patients quit addictive behaviors and make lifestyle improvements.

With traditional medical services, many patients report waiting months before doctors are available. Some even go years before seeking attention because they expect to have poor care or too much debt. Telehealth services make it easy to seek help at the first cause for concern and follow the recommended care plan. Since early detection helps avoid intensive treatment, positive outcomes increase while costs decrease. Patients who use telehealth services have lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress. They also have 38 percent fewer hospital stays than the rest of the population.

Privacy and Security

Many patients are nervous at the prospect of sharing their medical information online. However, telehealth services prioritize privacy and security. This means that patients have a safe platform to discuss medical issues with the protection of online security and HIPAA. Just like regular doctor’s appointments, telemedicine is subject to privacy laws. This means that unapproved third parties cannot access patient information. Chatting with a doctor on a secure patient portal is much safer than on standard phone calls or chat windows.

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Telehealth Cons

Restructuring and Training Take Time and Money

While there are many advantages to telehealth services, there are also some drawbacks. A primary disadvantage is the difficulty of transitioning doctors to online consultations. They need to learn how to use remote technological equipment, which takes time. It may even require a formal training program. Some medical professionals buck at the prospect of learning new technology. Many do not want to learn a new system or worry about the staff reduction caused by telemedicine.

Quality of Care Can Suffer Depending on System

Since telehealth services exist to provide on-demand access, patients cannot speak to the same doctor every time. The doctor on call might not be familiar with a patient’s medical needs or care plan, which can lead to poor care. Medical records may get mixed up, leading to incomplete patient histories or conflicting care plans. A streamlined online patient portal can make leaps in improving telehealth patient records. However, the nature of telehealth requires rotating staff. Inconsistent care can cause miscommunications leading to errors in diagnosis and treatment.

Technical Difficulties

Since telemedicine depends on technology, services are subject to internet connection and speed. This can cause problems for patients in areas with an unreliable internet connection. Consultations are also subject to changes in power supply and weather. Dropped calls may result in a poor quality of care or confusion for patients. It can also mean less continuity of care since patients may not be able to contact the same doctor after a dropped call.

Limitations to Services

Telemedicine’s easy accessibility does not mean it is right for every scenario. There are limits to the services doctors can offer remotely, especially when patients need a physical exam. Video chat can be helpful for this, but it is not a perfect alternative to an in-person exam.

Telehealth services also do not allow for routine tests like throat swabs, lab tests, or blood work. This makes them a poor option for complex illnesses and injuries. These are better treated in traditional medical facilities. Telemedicine is also not an option for emergency care. It is best suited to common conditions, such as colds, the flu, and sprains, or consultations that do not need a physical exam.

The System Is Still Evolving

Telemedicine is a relatively new field. This means policymakers are still determining how it should work with privacy laws and insurance requirements. This can be both a good and bad thing. It means that while there are still glitches in the system, it is constantly being updated and improved to provide better care.

There are some uncertain legal areas in telemedicine. Policies disagree on whether it falls under preventive care covered by health insurance or a separate healthcare plan. If the bulk of a patient’s healthcare falls under telehealth services, for example, it could disqualify them from insurance coverage. However, these details are still a gray area for lawmakers and insurance companies. This means there are still some uncertainties with telemedicine’s definition and application.

Patient Expenses

Telehealth services usually save money for both patients and providers. When used alongside frequent physical appointments, though, it can quickly become expensive. If patients are already paying to see a doctor on a regular basis, telemedicine can be a pricey addition. Remote services are intended to be a supplement to regular care, but only for patients who see their doctor a few times annually. They may not be an appropriate choice for people who need frequent medical care.

Bonum Health Telehealth Services

Fortunately, there are telemedicine options that provide top care while eliminating the potential disadvantages for patients. Bonum Health offers an extensive line of telemedical services and prioritizes consistency and quality of care, so patients do not need to worry about disruptions in their health plan.

With Bonum Health, patients have more choices for accessing quick, excellent telehealth services. Our medical professionals are experts in combining technology with quality care. We also offer options for telephone consultations.

Bonum Health is an excellent choice for people who need quick and affordable remote telehealth services. Our team of qualified medical professionals is always on call and ready to give expert advice. These professionals have up to 15 years of experience in family medicine, pediatrics, and more. If you want the best telehealth services at a low annual price, contact Bonum Health today.

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