Exploring telemedicine in 2019: benefits, risks, and ethical issues

Posted on by Alex Gorodov

Telemedicine is a game-changer in the healthcare industry, as it brings medical care right into the patient’s house. Market dynamics need completely different approaches to healthcare management. Today, it is able to solve three problems – to improve the quality of services, increase the level of public health and reduce costs.

Telemedicine uses online technologies such as e-mail, audio, and video conferencing to exchange medical information. The technology helps to extend healthcare services to remote areas. Providing professional medical services via online communication channels makes healthcare more affordable for the patients that have to struggle with geographic and financial problems whenever they needed a doctor’s help.

How telemedicine changes doctor-patient relations

The market recognizes the importance and disruptive capacity of telemedicine and responds. The current trends show an increase in the volumes of healthcare-related solutions. The analysts predict the telehealth market growth rate at almost 19% per year by 2022.

Today, telehealth exists in the following formats:

  • Real-time doctor-patient sessions in the form of audio or video calls or live chats;
  • Patient monitoring with the help of connected devices transmitting real-time data on the patient’s vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar or oxygen level, etc.)
  • Record management with uploading and exchanging of test results, X-ray and CAT scans, doctor’s opinions, drug prescriptions, etc.

Benefits for doctor

Here are some telemedicine benefits for a doctor to consider:

Improves patient engagement with remote monitoring

Telemedicine services make it easier for patients to stay engaged in their health care. It allows them to manage appointments and care schedules. Telemedicine makes it possible to reduce obesity and tobacco use, helping you promote a healthy lifestyle. Virtual visits convince the people that their providers are available and involved in their treatment. It also simplifies the patient’s questions and report early warning signs.

Expands access to care and reaches more patients

Telemedicine gives health care providers the ability to handle remote consultation, diagnosis, and treatment. It can overcome that geographical distance, especially for specialized providers. It also allows the sharing of medical information across the world, so physicians can consult each other in tricky cases.

Today, in some medical institutions, there are special rooms for handling online consultations. These rooms are equipped with telemedicine facilities for video and audio communications, and the necessary medical equipment. Here you can carry out the most complete range of diagnostic examinations. All data is transmitted to the screens of monitors, allowing you to handle the diagnostics.

Reduces no-shows

Telemedicine reduces no-shows by providing patients with a convenient way to access health care services. Traffic, job responsibilities and a lack of childcare may cause no-shows. Sometimes a patient is too sick to even leave his house. For the healthcare industry, missed appointments can cause a significant loss of revenue. The telemedicine option allows doctors to make the most of their time.

Benefits for patient

Convenience and Increased Access

Distance and travel time can be a critical issue in accessing healthcare. Telemedicine allows a patient to receive qualified medical care and not to self-medicate. There is no need to waste time in transport and queue. The effectiveness of this method of medical care is comparable to a face-to-face appointment. The physician can also take an anamnesis, analyze the test results, consult the colleagues. If necessary, the doctor will redirect the patient to a narrower specialist. If the situation is critical – convince to seek emergency full-time help.

Faster Care

Telemedicine can improve quality both for physical and mental healthcare. Patients can contact doctors whenever they feel something is wrong. It can reduce false urgent care visits and sometimes save a life before it is too late. A recent study showed that with telemedicine, patients had:

  • 38% fewer hospital admissions
  • 31% fewer hospital re-admissions
  • 63% more likely to spend fewer days in the hospital

Access more specialists

If a patient lives in a small town or rural area, he might not be able to access the narrow specialists who can provide the necessary help. There is also a challenge of examination of elderly people and patients with disabilities. Since they are unable to visit the medical institution, it is hard to conduct the necessary treatment. Or if a patient has a rare condition, there might only be a few experts in the whole country.

Possible risks

While telemedicine services have a lot of benefits, there are also some drawbacks.

Less Personal Contact

Patients may react too strongly to minor symptoms or be not sure that they accurately describe what is happening to them. All this leads to the fact that the doctor begins to feel the need to plan a visit for such a patient in his office.

Physical Examination is Limited

At a face-to-face consultation, the doctor has the opportunity to personally examine the patient. A physician is able to distinguish more than a dozen diseases. Moreover, during the online appointment, the doctor may receive insufficient information or ambiguous data, which prevents him from correct diagnosing.

Telemedicine Equipment and Technology

Because the online appointment depends on technology, a patient depends on anything that can interrupt internet connection — bad weather, loss of power or even outdated software.

Code of Medical Ethics for Telemedicine

The American Medical Association suggests the ethical guidelines for the delivery of telemedicine healthcare services. It focuses on the physician’s fundamental responsibilities in telemedicine. It also aims to help the physicians to understand the remote interaction with the patient.

Financial disclosures

AMA suggests that the healthcare provider discloses the financial or other interests they have in telehealth too.

Data security

The doctor should ensure the security of patient data transmitted using telehealth technology. Tools should be HIPAA-compliant, emails should be encrypted, and data should be breech-protected.

Recognize and overcome technology limits

The service providers should overcome any limitations on providing health treatment via the new technology. They must “ensure that they have the information they need to make well-grounded clinical recommendations when they cannot conduct a physical examination.

Using QuickBlox solutions for telemedicine platforms

The implementation and popularization of telemedicine raise security and compliance issues. The healthcare industry is too sensitive to neglect security measures and government regulations. Hence, we recommend that clinics and practitioners wishing to embrace telemedicine engage professional developers experienced in the healthcare industry.

QuickBlox ensures effectiveness, security, and complying with international standards. Our solutions for telemedicine platforms meet HIPAA requirements and protect your patients’ information.

Conclusion

More and more medical institutions are implementing telemedicine solutions. At the level of a medical institution, telemedicine helps to improve results, reduce costs and expand access to quality services for various groups of patients in the clinic and at home.

QuickBlox is HIPAA-compliant toolset that helps to integrate secure video conference and screen share so you can create your own innovative telehealth platform.

Please contact our sales team for more info.