As the healthcare industry modernizes, one of the biggest debates tends to revolve around the notion of technology and how much is too much. While technology obviously has a place in the industry, opponents argue that too much automation could lead to a decline in care. Proponents say it makes sense financially and strategically. Telemedicine is starting to give us a glimpse at both the pros and cons.
What is Telemedicine?
In its most basic form, telemedicine allows healthcare professionals to observe, diagnose, and treat patients remotely using digital communication platforms and other remote technologies. While it’s been around for decades, it’s just now crossing the radar of many healthcare providers.
“Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, far away from local health facilities or in areas of with shortages of medical professionals,” explains eVisit, one of the leaders in the field. “While telemedicine is still used today to address these problems, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care.”
For doctors, specialists, clinics, and all types of practices, the question is, should you begin using telemedicine features to enhance patient care and maximize profits? Or is it a waste of time until the technology improves further?
The Pros of Telemedicine for Healthcare Providers
Let’s begin by looking at some of the pros of telemedicine:
- Fast and Convenient
One of the biggest advantages of telemedicine is its speed and convenience – for both patients and healthcare providers. As opposed to commuting to your office, sitting in a waiting room, moving to the exam room, and then waiting again to be seen finally, telemedicine allows for instantaneous access from wherever the patient is.
From the healthcare provider side of things, you can see more patients in a shorter period of time because you don’t have to deal with all of the delays that typically come with patients that enter your facility.
Once it’s up and running, telemedicine is extremely cost-effective. In addition to saving time, it cuts back on the need for various supplies and gives you the chance to reach patients where they are.
It’s even more cost-effective for patients. As M.D. Media Marketing explains, “Use of telemedicine can help with cutting down on costs such as transport and hospital bills. Since treatment is received at home, many parents won’t have to worry about who will take care of their children while they are away.”
- Greater Reach
A normal healthcare practice is only going to reach people that live in close proximity to the physical location – perhaps a 20-mile radius at the most. When telemedicine services are offered, location no longer becomes an issue. As long as there’s a connection, you can see patients all over the world.
The Cons of Telemedicine for Healthcare Providers
Telemedicine isn’t perfect. There are also some possible negatives associated with it:
- Tech Training and Equipment
While there are definitely some cost savings to be realized, you also need to invest in technology and training in order to get off the ground.
“Restructuring IT staff responsibilities and purchasing equipment takes time and costs money,” eVisit notes. “Training is crucial to building an effective telemedicine program.”
If you’re going to invest in telemedicine, you must be willing to tackle the training and infrastructure side of things.
- Not Always Feasible
Telemedicine isn’t always suitable for patient care. While you may be able to perform consultations and check-ups, you can’t perform any actual hands-on care or tests. This limits the number of opportunities a practice has to conduct telemedicine visits.
- Lacks Personal Touch
There’s something to be said for developing a relationship with patients and getting to know them over time. This is far easier to do when you’re seeing them in person. Even with video conferencing tools, there’s something about a telemedicine appointment that feels a little less personal. Keep this in mind as you integrate it into your practice.
Adding it All Up
It all depends on the type of medicine you practice, who your target demographic is, and what sort of services you offer, but telemedicine is becoming a viable option for healthcare providers across a variety of specialties. At the very least, you should begin looking into it.