Telemedicine – the practice of providing consultations and medical assistance to patients through video calls – should be a lasting way of administering health care, according to the American Medical Association, particularly for patients with chronic health conditions. It promises to free up doctors’ offices and reduce the amount of time that individuals spend on waiting lists.
From around 2012 onwards, the number of people using telemedicine increased globally, year-on-year. Technology made it possible for patients to connect with their doctors remotely, skipping the need to travel to offices for consultations. However, despite the feasibility of such systems, coverage was patchy, right up until 2020.
Once the pandemic hit, though, things began to change. Social distancing meant that medical practitioners had no choice but to shut their doors and administer patient care online. According to the AMA, COVID-19 changed everything. Early on in the crisis, the Trump administration removed many of the regulatory barriers to telemedicine, freeing up providers. The moves made it easy for patients to pay for their care while remaining safely in their homes.
Telemedicine Is Revolutionary For The Healthcare Sector
During the early phases of the pandemic, public health officials took decisive action to ensure that telemedicine became a viable option for delivering medical care. Data protection policies and patient confidentiality requirements were modified to allow surgeries to more easily connect with their patients.
Patients enjoyed the changes too. They didn’t want to leave their homes and go to the effort of attending an in-person consultation, particularly with the risk of infection being so high. Furthermore, economically and socially marginalised patients found it much easier to connect with the medical services that they needed. All they needed to do was log onto their computers instead of travelling at great expense.
The benefits of telehealth, therefore, are considerable, according to experts.
Comfortable And Convenient
Physically getting to and from the surgery can be painful for some patients. Those with gout, heart disease and diabetes complications often find it challenging to move at all.
Researchers, therefore, point to the comfort and convenience that telehealth offers. Patients, they say, can usually receive a full diagnosis and treatment options without having to go to the clinic, particularly if they have a known medical condition, already documented by their physician.
Furthermore, patients don’t have to make any additional arrangements to attend a doctor’s appointment, including finding childcare, taking time off work or paying for transport. They can do everything remotely, so long as they have adequate privacy.
In the past, getting a Flexiseq prescription for arthritis involved going to a GP. However, those in the industry say that telemedicine is changing the dynamic profoundly. Doctors are now able to forward prescriptions to online dispensaries who then ship medicines to patients.
Again, this means that patients do not have to move or endure any unnecessary pain. Marginalised groups have better access to medicine and more control over prices.
Better Infectious Disease Control
Disease control is also top of public health bodies’ agenda right now. If possible, they would prefer to see a world in which only a fraction of all patients actually visit a doctor.
During COVID-19, this seems necessary. Hospital infections put already-compromised patients at risk, worsening disease outcomes. In future years, such medical practices may also slow the rate of flu transmission. At-risk patient groups, such as the elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised are able to get the help they need without subjecting themselves to excessive risk.
There is some evidence that telemedicine may also offer patients improved assessment. Doctors, for instance, can observe the home environment for factors that could potentially impact a patient’s health. For example, if the patient has allergies, physicians could identify potential sources in their environment. Patients could also wear sensors that feed data to doctors for real-time illness management.
Because of the changes wrought by the pandemic, telemedicine is likely to become a significant factor in the future of medicine, experts say. New technology comes with some compromises, but it also offers benefits that aren’t available to patients still using face-to-face visits.
Telemedicine will also help to lower the overall cost of healthcare provision over time. Less reliance on clinics and surgeries could potentially cut costs and lead to greater reliability of services.
Patient uptake is also strong, according to figures, particularly since the advent of the pandemic. Vulnerable groups are now more willing to use online consultations because of the risks that visiting the GP in person poses.