The pandemic has transformed the way patients receive healthcare services, as systems adopt telemedicine to minimize exposure between doctors and the ill. Telemedicine refers to the use of technology to provide patients with healthcare services through both synchronous and asynchronous communication. With this, telemedicine allows people to receive adequate health care from the comfort of their home, saving both providers and patients time and money. 

Benefits of Telemedicine

Expand Access to Care

Telemedicine connects people all over the country to health providers. From rural populations, people without transportation, elderly patients, and even the incarcerated, virtual visits defy limitations, providing patients access to healthcare wherever they may be. For many, telemedicine remains the only reason they receive care, as a UPMC patient survey shows that 40% of patients would skip treatment without the option for a virtual visit due to the burden of travel.

Lower Costs

Telehealth helps patients save money on external costs associated with visiting the doctor’s office, including transportation and parking, childcare, and taking time off of work. According to doxy.me, telemedicine care saved patients 19% more than inpatient care. 

Improved Engagement and Satisfaction 

Telemedicine simplifies appointments for both patients and health care providers, as it gives people access to healthcare from the comfort and privacy of their homes, reducing the rate of no-show appointments. Virtual visits also eliminate waiting times and possible exposure to illnesses, creating a safer and more efficient way to receive care. 

Issues with Telemedicine

Data Privacy

As more patients turn to virtual visits, data privacy has become a growing concern. Hackers may obtain confidential patient information through unsecured networks or unencrypted channels. Despite the numerous policies and procedures in place to keep personal health records confidential, health providers must take extra precautions when providing remote health services such as employee security training, remote access protocol, and rigid security controls. 

Delays in Care

In situations where patients require urgent medical attention, telemedicine may delay treatment. Without the ability to conduct physical examinations or run tests, medical practitioners are unable to provide timely life-saving treatment to those experiencing a medical emergency.

Care Quality

With the inability to conduct a physical examination, medical practitioners must rely on the patient’s medical history and self-reporting. These limitations may leave room for oversights, as any misinterpretation or lack of information provided by the patient may result in a misdiagnosis or untreated condition. Poor internet connection may also affect care quality, as technological issues deter clear and timely communication. 

Insurance

Though all states have some form of Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services, the extent of these reimbursements varies from state to state, making it difficult for patients to know what is covered by insurance. Seeing how these laws are constantly changing, many patients avoid telemedicine altogether, receiving care in-person from healthcare providers they know are covered by their insurance.