Like everything else, modern technology has also modified the ways things work in the health department. Traditionally, patients visited their doctors in their medical offices, clinics, or hospitals to get their health-related solutions. But now, things have gotten much easier and more comfortable with the introduction of telehealth. Thanks to the invention of the computer, laptops, mobile devices, and tablets, you can see your doctor without leaving the comfort of your couch and get a consultation, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment all through a simple video call.
Telehealth gained immense popularity during the recent COVID-19 pandemic when doctors limited their in-person patient visits to limit the spread of the virus. According to one estimation, virtual doctor visits increased by 50 to 175 times. Telehealth proved such a great success that even with the pandemic tapering off, many people still prefer virtual appointments to physical visits to their doctors.
But is telehealth any good or should you continue to go in and see your doctor? To answer this question, we have gathered a list of the pros and cons of telehealth to see if telehealth is the right direction to move forward for a better future of healthcare and patient care.
Pros of Telehealth
- Telehealth is More Convenient
Visiting your doctor in person is a time-consuming process. It requires effort in terms of driving to the doctor’s office, finding a parking spot, waiting for your turn to see the doctor, etc. Getting an in-person appointment can also get difficult sometimes when there is more patient influx, or you cannot get a leave from your work. On the other hand, telehealth saves you from all this trouble and offers you a convenient solution. With a telehealth appointment, you can talk to your doctor anywhere and find time for consultation between your working hours.
- Telehealth is as Effective as In-Person Visits
Telehealth is not only convenient; it also is equally as effective as in-person visits and treatments. Both clinicians and patients show great satisfaction while communicating on a video call. Studies have also proven that healthcare efficacy is not compromised while dealing with patients over a video call. Additionally, communicating over a video channel might be even more comfortable for some people who are not good with in-person interactions.
- Telehealth Covers the Majority of Clinical Appointments
One might consider this relatively new mode as treatment-limiting, but this is not actually the case. You can consult numerous specialists working in different health and medicine fields and get solutions for your specific medical condition, including psychological issues. You can reserve a telehealth appointment for therapy sessions, nutrition consultations, routine check-ups, follow-up consultations for chronic illnesses, infection screening, etc.
- Telehealth Bridges Geographical Gaps
To book and conduct a telehealth appointment, all you need is an active internet connection. This feature makes telehealth accessible in far-reaching areas where medical specialties are not that advanced. It also bypasses transportation limitations and mobility issues. With telehealth at your disposal, you can virtually visit a doctor anywhere in the world without worrying about transportation and mobility expenses.
Cons of Telehealth
- Telehealth Involves Technical Aspects
Telehealth is a product of technology. It requires an active internet connection and know-how of the computer and smartphone software. This can be challenging for some people who are not familiar with modern technology. You can also face troubles with your internet connection and face hindrances while going through a virtual consultation. Furthermore, sometimes you will need to download additional apps to reserve an appointment. This makes telehealth convenient only for those well-versed in its technological aspects.
- Your Health Insurance Plan Might Not Cover Telehealth.
You might need to pay for your telehealth visits from your pocket as it is not covered by many health insurance plans. Whether or not your telehealth appointments are covered by your health insurance depends on your state or your health insurance provider. If your plan does not cover it, you might be charged based on your condition, symptoms, the healthcare physician you visit, and the treatment you are receiving.
- Telehealth Does Not Work for Emergency Conditions
It is obvious that telehealth cannot work for hands-on treatments. For example, if you are bleeding and need stitches, an X-ray, a physical examination, etc., telehealth cannot provide these. While some emergencies can be managed virtually, for the majority of emergencies, it is recommended that you call 911 for immediate assistance and visit the ER as soon as possible.
- Telehealth Might Result in Delayed Treatment
Telehealth is considered an efficient way of saving time and resources spent on traveling and waiting. However, in some cases, this mode of healthcare can be a little time-consuming. For instance, the prescribed laboratory tests can be performed on the spot while visiting a doctor’s clinic. But with telehealth, this is not the case. There can be significant delays in receiving the blood sample, running the test, getting results, and eventually, getting the proper treatment started.
When Can You Use Telehealth?
Telehealth can be used to get help for various acute conditions as well as for chronic conditions as well. For example, you can use telehealth for the following conditions:
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs)
- Minor Burns
- Minor Cuts
- Sore Throat
- Depression and Anxiety
- Back Pain
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Diabetes Type I and II
- High Cholesterol
When Should You Visit Your Doctor In-Person?
Telehealth is not a wise choice in the following situations:
- When you need a physical exam
- You have severe symptoms
- When you need urgent hands-on treatment
- Any serious emergency
- When you need to undergo a special procedure like a colonoscopy
Telehealth is a practical, convenient, economical, and accessible method of receiving medical care. It saves you the trouble of traveling, waiting, and taking a day off from your work while maintaining the effectiveness of medical care. However, some hands-on treatments and emergency situations still require you to visit your healthcare provider in person. You should be aware of the benefits and limitations of telehealth to make the right decision when needed.