Weighing in on Tele-health
By Judith LaMontagne 5/25/2020
With the onslaught of Covid-19, many things have changed in the healthcare world. There have been profound changes, some of which will, no doubt, remain. Post pandemic, medicine will likely never be the same. It is safe to say that no one has been left untouched. Tele-health, the newest child in medical care, obviously received a big boost. Few wanted to risk the possibility of an infection inadvertently acquired in a doctor’s office.
In many ways that may be a good thing, but there are also serious downsides. Although I have fortunately not had coronavirus, I have a healthy respect for this epidemic that has wreaked death and destruction to our way of life. I relied on tele-health, myself, when I became otherwise sick during the pandemic. And yes, quite frankly, I was not willing to enter the small hospital/clinic where my doctor practices. Yet, my illness definitely required medication. Tele-health to the rescue!
As I analyzed my experience, I saw and appreciated the obvious advantages to phone medicine, but I could also see many disadvantages. Here’s how I rated the results.
- Tele-health obviously removes the threat of any infection that might lurk in a doctor’s office. It also safeguards others who might catch any infection you might bring.
- Making an appointment for a tele-health appointment is generally easier than a more traditional appointment because less time is usually necessary for the appointment.
- The cost of the visit will most likely be less than for a regular appointment.
- Doctors can obviously “see” and evaluate more patients with tele-health, which could help eliminate the shortage of doctors.
- The appointments generally take less time.
- The doctor cannot assess the entire patient, which is more important than it may seem, at first. An overall health assessment is simply not possible over the phone.
- It can be difficult for the doctor to converse with patients who are not well known to him or her. Direct contact and assessment are most helpful in getting to know a patient and his or her unique problems.
- The patient’s entire body cannot be seen or scanned over the phone. Certain skin cancers, for instance, might not be noticed.
- Weigh-in and blood pressure cannot be done by phone. The patient must do them on his own. (Hmm, ladies,do we sometimes fudge on our weight?) These two measurements are extremely important, especially in the American population, many of whom suffer from overweight and high blood pressure.
- Without the doctor actually observing the patient, mental and/or physical conditions could also be overlooked. Because of limited time and personal support, a patient often feels less free to talk on the phone. Give and take is best done in person.
- There can be difficulties with ordering prescriptions because of misunderstandings, especially from the patient’s end.
It seems obvious that tele-medicine is here to stay. Both in-clinic and tele-medicine have their places. Doctors may prefer tele-medicine because it saves them time. Patients sometimes prefer it because of transportation difficulties, costs, and just the nuisance of keeping an appointment. There are definite advantages and disadvantages with this new member of the medical “family.”
In the future, patients will need to consider both the pros and cons of tele-medicine and which method will be best for their needs, likely some combination of both.