Telehealth: The pros and cons
Innovations aren’t always met with acceptance from the public. People are wary of unfamiliar ways of doing things, and when telehealth became the latest medical trend, there was scepticism about its effectiveness and rightly so.
The idea of being able to get a diagnosis from a hundred miles away can be difficult to grasp, with people used to the conventional way of seeing a doctor; face to face and in real life. But amidst the new reality of COVID-19, it is easy to see the benefits of being able to access a form of healthcare for certain ailments that can be administered at home, safe from any potential dangers.
Also, it’s convenient.
But it isn’t all good or bad. Like everything new, there are a few kinks to iron out.
Here are some advantages and shortfalls of telehealth.
What exactly is telehealth, though?
Well, before we can discuss the pros and cons, it is important to have a thorough understanding of what the concept of telehealth is.
Telehealth is the practice of medical consultation over telecommunication; be it a phone call, email or most commonly, a video chat. A physician can set a time and date for a consultation and you can get expert advice without leaving your house.
It is important to note that this is only for non-emergency situations as well as minor illnesses. However, this is a great first step for diagnosis. Saving time and money by doing the first consultation via telecommunication can help you be sure about whether you need a follow up in a doctor’s surgery.
One great advantage of having a consultation done via telehealth is that you can get prescription renewals and even have new ones administered. Travelling to the doctor’s rooms can be expensive and time-consuming. It is also a huge inconvenience to have to travel to town, depending on where you live, just for a prescription.
Some people aren’t financially able to do this, which is often the deciding factor for many patients when it comes to cancelling appointments.
Also, having to book an appointment to see a doctor for a minor, non-emergency set of symptoms can have the same financial and emotional burden. These factors are all part of the reasoning behind telemedicine and telehealth, and many people are opting to be consulted over the phone, or via the Internet instead of having to leave their home.
E Visit, an American care provider that has adopted telemedicine as a way of treating patients, praises this form of virtual consultation as a way of lowering healthcare costs, driving up efficiency and revenue, providing your patients better access to healthcare services, and ultimately getting happier, healthier patients who stay in your organisation.
Nothing beats face to face
A disadvantage of telehealth is that it will unfortunately never fully substitute a real, live consultation. It removes many of the senses from the doctor or nurse’s evaluation. Sometimes, healthcare professionals need more than their sight to tell them what is wrong. A full examination requires the touch of expert hands even smell and listening to your heartbeat or stomach can assist in an accurate summation of your symptoms. Telehealth handicaps the diagnostic process in this way.
This is why it is important that telehealth should be seen as a substitute for when face-to-face consultations aren’t immediately possible for various reasons.
Access to Healthcare
Not every area has access to transport, medicine and healthcare.
CNBC reports that doctors and patients like the flexibility and time savings the online technology affords, particularly in rural areas where access to care can be difficult. A whopping 37% of South Africa’s accounted for population live in rural conditions.
The iER app is a free emergency application that can be downloaded on any smart device. It gives the user peace of mind by offering a no-cost solution for emergencies. The App is a panic button that can be used in a variety of situations to ensure that the proper response team is sent to the scene of an emergency or crime. It is a one-click solution, available to everyone.
There is no membership fee to make use of the iER application, although data or a Wi-Fi connection is required for use. Anyone who has the app, which can be downloaded from all app stores, can make use of the emergency response facilities. This is because the app was designed to be accessible.
The FREE iER App is the gateway to emergency response services, including a national network of private, semi-private and government emergency medical and non-medical response services.
Locally, the Medical Society gives members the option of being helped via telecommunication, further easing the burden of lack of access to healthcare.
Better management of Chronic Conditions through Telehealth
Telehealth isn’t only for new consultations, but it also makes it easier for chronic patients to receive support, without needing to keep going back to the hospital or clinic.
Remote Patient Monitoring now replaces many routine personal visits. This means more frequent contact between patient and nurse, so there’s less fragmentation of care that occurs when patients lapse with their responsibilities, explains Evisits. More frequent contact also results in fewer ER visits and hospital readmissions that occur when patients mismanage their chronic conditions.