For those not in the know, telemedicine is the term used for diagnoses and consultations which are delivered to patients remotely, traditionally through a telecommunications device. You may have heard of the term telehealth, which is a catch-all word for any health service provided over telecommunications; telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services. In 2017, it’s more than likely going to be a computer, smartphone or tablet; ye olde house phone is quickly becoming a relic of antiquity. With technology evolving at an exponential rate, it makes sense that it should be put to work to make our lives easier. These developments are becoming rapidly apparent (and accessible) in the field of telemedicine.
So how does this new-fangled treatment square up against the old reliable regular medicine? We’re talking family doctors, waiting rooms and referrals here; everyone knows the experience. People take (or should take) their health very seriously; if you’re going to switch healthcare M.O. you probably want to know what’s in it for you, right? Well, there are more than a few advantages to telemedicine and plenty of reasons to get interested in it. Here are five important ones.
1 – You Get Better Access to Specialists
Let’s face it, family doctors, general practitioners, primary care physicians, whatever you want to call them, are essentially gatekeepers for specialists. A family doctor can do little more than prescribe antibiotics, check your blood pressure and take your temperature. If you suspect there’s something serious going on with you, you’re going to need a specialist, and fast. Your GP will locate the general area of the complaint and then refer you as appropriate. Medicine is a vast field, so it makes sense that there are specialists in every discipline; the human body is an intricate and delicate system after all. Some are better than other, however. With regular medicine, you’re at the mercy of your closest specialist, who usually resides at the nearest hospital. If you live in a rural area, this may not be optimum. With telemedicine however, your choice of specialists expands exponentially, meaning you get better options and ultimately better treatment, regardless of your location.
2 – It’s Much More Efficient Than Regular Medicine
Another great benefit of telemedicine is that it’s fast. In certain healthcare situations, speed is of the essence. Setting up and then engaging in a trip to the practitioner can be a long process, especially if you or your family member’s condition is devolving rapidly. With telemedicine, patients can have real-time urgent care consultations when and where it suits them, and learn about prospective treatment plans within minutes. Specialists are also much freer to take on more telemedicine consultations, which means you won’t be left on a waiting list for months at a time.
3 – You Can Consult From Home
This is a major advantage telemedicine has over regular medicine; you can ‘work from home’. Some patients are incapacitated or handicapped, and can’t reach their doctors without a significant degree of hassle and pain; for them, telemedicine is a godsend. A fine example of this in action can be found in the acquisition of a disabled parking permit. Patients who can’t access their doctors because of their conditions will inevitably find it hard to get treated for them. Through telemedicine, they can procure a handicap parking permit or disabled parking spot without leaving the house, and can then get on with life using their new permit. But if people can’t get to see the doctors in the first place, availing of benefits like a parking permit can be very tricky indeed. This is one of the major ways that telemedicine is shaping the future of healthcare.
4 – It Keeps Patients Engaged
Nobody likes going to the doctor much, and we all have a tendency to put it off unless it’s something really serious (and sometimes, until it’s too late). One benefit of telemedicine is that it’s psychologically a lot easier to check on something which is niggling at you if you’re just sitting down at the computer, rather than facing an elongated trip to the family practitioner waiting room. In this way, telemedicine engages patients with their own health in a way that traditional medicine can’t; the result is a more timely response for and from everyone involved.
5 – It Keeps Costs Down
Lastly, telemedicine is great because it keeps costs down. Remote analysis and electronic data storage are a cheaper and more efficient way for clinics to run, and it ends up costing less for the patients and doctors. An increasing amount of practitioners are charging less for a telemedicine consultation than they would for a face-to-face clinic visit, because it’s less time on the job for them. You’re also not dealing with any travel expenses, which can be negligible to considerable, depending on how far away from the doctors you live, and whether or not you have access to a car.