Telemedicine is a method of providing medical care remotely, usually through video chat. Telemedicine offers a range of benefits for both patients and healthcare providers.
It is possible to access a wide range of care options through telemedicine services, including primary care consultations, psychotherapy, physical therapy, and even some emergency services.
Read on to learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of telemedicine.
Telemedicine offers healthcare using digital devices such as computers and smartphones. In most cases, telemedicine uses video conferencing. However, some providers choose to offer care via email or phone messaging.
Many people use telemedicine with their usual healthcare provider. Others access virtual care using a dedicated telemedicine app.
Doctors and patients can use telemedicine to:
Telemedicine is useful in situations where the patient must practice physical distancing or is unable to attend a healthcare facility in person.
Research generally finds that telemedicine works, even for serious medical conditions.
For example, a 2017 meta-analysis and systematic review of the use of telemedicine for treating chronic heart failure found benefits. These included lower admission rates, shorter hospital stays, and fewer deaths.
The sections below will discuss some of the possible benefits for patients and healthcare providers.
Telemedicine can help treat a range of medical conditions. It is most successful when a person seeks care from a qualified physician and provides clear details about their symptoms.
Some other benefits of telemedicine include:
Healthcare providers who offer telemedicine services may gain several benefits, including:
However, telemedicine may not suit every person or situation. There are some potential disadvantages when using telemedicine over traditional care methods.
The following sections look at some disadvantages for patients and healthcare providers.
Telemedicine is not a good fit for all patients. Some drawbacks of this type of care include:
Healthcare providers may also face some drawbacks associated with telemedicine, including:
Telemedicine works well for any condition that does not require laboratory tests or a physical examination. Telemedicine can even offer some forms of ongoing care, such as psychotherapy.
When there are barriers to treatment — such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a patient who lives far away from a medical care facility, or a patient who cannot transport themselves — providers may expand the list of conditions they are willing to treat. For instance, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics for a likely infection via telemedicine.
Telemedicine is a convenient option for people who cannot go to the doctor’s office and those who prefer to stay home. However, it is important that patients check the credentials of the doctor providing care.
For people with anxiety about leaving the house, chronic medical conditions that make catching infections dangerous, and contagious diseases, remote care may mean the difference between prompt treatment and no treatment at all.
Patients should provide detailed medical information, and when possible, they should show the doctor any rashes, injuries, or other visible symptoms that require treatment.
Last medically reviewed on April 20, 2020
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