Telemedicine has been around for nearly a quarter of a century, but it didn’t truly hit its stride until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Lockdown orders kept people in place, and the virus turned a visit to the doctor into a potential exposure risk. This led many to briefly forgo any non-emergency medical care. Enter telemedicine.
This innovative medical practice has expanded access to personalized healthcare nationwide. No longer do you have to spend hours in a stuffy waiting room surrounded by coughing patients.
Now, you can enjoy individualized, professional medical care from the comfort of your own home. The numerous benefits of telemedicine are undeniable. In this article, we’ll explore how it’s provided enhanced patient care throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so as we look toward the future of healthcare.
The Undeniable Benefits of Telehealth
COVID-19 has undoubtedly disrupted many of the daily routines you once took for granted. In the throes of a global health crisis, big events like moving or changing your career have become even more stressful. Fortunately, there are some guidelines you can follow to safely and seamlessly move during a pandemic, and a career shift doesn’t have to be so anxiety-inducing.
When it comes to receiving quality healthcare, however, you may feel at a loss. During these difficult times, many people have also experienced financial hardship, mental health struggles, and losses that have rendered affordable, accessible healthcare an indispensable service.
But what is it like to participate in telehealth services? Expanded access to healthcare services comes with a host of advantages, which include:
- Increased access to healthcare for those living in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
- Less time and money spent on transport to reach the doctor.
- Access to specialized professionals who may not be available in your immediate geographic area.
- Assessing an individual’s health without the risk of contagion.
- Decreased cost of services.
- An easy way to monitor pre-existing conditions, track post-operative wellness, and provide coaching and therapy across distance.
- Allowing doctors to focus on seeing more patients.
- Secure access to medical care in a comfortable environment.
In addition to this broad list of telemedicine benefits, you’ll likely find one-on-one doctor’s appointments to be more engaging and personalized. Research indicates that telehealth patients experience a higher level of quality care and are less likely to fall ill or be hospitalized.
Telehealth services can also make it easier for you to obtain any necessary prescriptions. You save a trip to the pharmacy when medication can be shipped directly to your doorstep. For the increasing number of Americans suffering from mental illness, telemedicine is a great way to receive treatment without the hassle.
In brief, telehealth is advancing patient care so that illnesses can be identified and treated sooner rather than later. This shift is beneficial for patients as well as medical professionals.
Obstacles Yet to Be Overcome
While the profound benefits of telehealth for practitioners and patients alike are undeniable, some challenges face the future of telemedicine. Fortunately, with proper planning, these obstacles can be overcome as we look toward the years ahead.
Perhaps the main issue facing telemedicine today is uneven access to technological tools. As we’ve learned from shifting the majority of our work online, working from home can be challenging for your productivity and patience. Telehealth can also test the patience of many individuals, particularly older people without technological know-how.
As of 2021, around 93% of American adults are estimated to have Internet access. However, that doesn’t mean they have it in their homes. Many people still struggle to pay for consistent access to the Internet or smart devices, through which telehealth services must be conducted.
Besides the problem of accessibility, in-person appointments are sometimes preferable if a physical exam must be carried out or the patient is uncomfortable speaking virtually. Urgency is another big drawback — in the case of a medical emergency, telehealth can not replace immediate emergency care.
Licensure agreements and regulatory issues may also be a barrier to telehealth, depending on your location. However, healthcare organizations have been working with the relevant governmental agencies to resolve all legal and clinical concerns.
With these obstacles taken into consideration, it’s likely a hybrid telehealth model will continue to be employed in the coming years. The obvious convenience and comfort of telehealth appointments mean the phenomenon won’t be going away anytime soon.
Final Thoughts on Telemedicine
When the world is thrown into disorder, human beings will find some way to make sense of the chaos. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented event for most of us, but the response of the medical community has been nothing short of heroic.
From the unceasing dedication of frontline healthcare workers to the quick adoption of telehealth procedures by doctors, this past year has revealed healthcare workers to be incredibly resilient and adaptable. Now that you have a more complete understanding of the beneficial advancements that have been made in telemedicine, you can enjoy the rewards of this revolutionary treatment experience.