Telemedicine has proven to be the best innovative and scalable strategy to overcome the current day challenges faced by both healthcare providers and patients.
Covid-19 has thrown unprecedented challenges in healthcare. With many facilities being overburdened, patients often find it hard to get an appointment with their healthcare providers.
Add to that the legitimate fears about viral loads in hospitals, time spent in waiting rooms and concerns about social distancing norms. Most patients find it safer to ‘see’ their doctor online.
Traditionally too telemedicine has helped overcome various barriers to medical care. People in medically underserved or geographically remote areas find that telemedicine can address their healthcare needs when little else is available. Even in temporarily inaccessible places such as at times of natural calamities, being able to talk to and consult with a doctor can make a huge difference in the lives of those who suffer. Telemedicine is found to be very suitable for certain specialties such as speech therapy, physical therapy and for mental health checkups. Also, in places where there is a lack of certain specialized providers, telemedicine can help fill the gaps.
With the use of a mobile phone and a reliable internet connection, patients can save costs too. Time and money spent on transportation to get to a clinic or hospital can sometimes be prohibitive causing long gaps between appointments and discontinuity in care. In a recent study, it was found that telemedicine interventions significantly reduced the number of hospital admissions as well as re-admissions. People were also likely to spend fewer days in the hospital and were overall, more engaged with their own healthcare decision making.
Telemedicine does not have to have an ‘all or nothing’ approach. It can take the pressure off regular doctor visits. In fact, it can supplement and strengthen traditional face- to- face medicine. It provides the flexibility where the patient can connect remotely for follow up visits, checkups and advice and education whenever necessary. The doctor too can talk to a patient remotely and decide if an in-person visit or hospitalization is required. For e.g. in situations where a patient presents with symptoms that could be Covid-19, the severity of symptoms needs to be assessed to decide if the patient requires hospitalization. In addition to this test as well as regular follow ups are crucial. All of these can be managed well with the use of telemedicine.
Perhaps the biggest gift of telemedicine is the patient’s own satisfaction and convenience. It enables a patient to stay engaged and actively participate in their own healthcare decisions. They can use telemedicine apps to keep a track of their vitals, any side effects and to also get reminders to renew prescriptions or order tests.
Patients, especially the elderly, find that telemedicine can help them prepare for their doctor ‘visits’ better. With the hassle of driving to or finding a ride to the clinic out of the way, they can find a time that is convenient and a setting that is relaxing for them to speak with their doctor. (Read our blog, How to better prepare for your telemedicine appointment for tips on how to maximize the outcome of your telemedicine visit.)
Although these are testing times for patients and healthcare providers alike, telemedicine offers a viable option that will likely change the face of healthcare forever, well after we are past the present challenges.