Although telemedicine has been around for some time now, it’s only really in the last decade or so that the medical community and patients alike have started to embrace it. Understandable, given that it was very rudimentary in the early days. The potential was there though and obvious to most. With recent advances and developments in technology and with the wider availability of broadband services, telemedicine is finally beginning to show its true colors.

According to recent surveys and to current chat on the subject among the medical community, it’s fair to say that there are mixed views on telemedicine, for reasons that we will outline. Most revealing, though, is a recent national survey that found over 63% of health care providers use telemedicine in some form or other. The general belief is that telehealth can expand a physician’s patient base, is more cost-efficient, and makes it possible to engage better with a patient – which means that a positive outcome is more likely.

When asked for their views, doctors invariably recognize the importance of telemedicine in the running of their daily practice, but believe that it needs more development. They feel that it’s particularly of benefit to their elderly and immobile patients. They also want to have phone calls and video calls seen as part of their service and therefore as something they are reimbursed for.

There are many positive views on telemedicine among the medical community that are relevant to how telemedicine could benefit you. Physicians can see the advantage of virtual visits with patients who are unable to make a scheduled appointment in person. A video call can be instantaneous. Practices lose a lot of revenue through missed appointments; telehealth visits reduce the number of these lost appointments as well as giving patients greater flexibility on when they “see” the doctor.

Divan Medical - computer with stethoscope

Telemedicine is revolutionizing medicine – but what do those in the medical community think about it?

Telemedicine is also playing an important part in combating the rise of chronic and acute conditions. Patients with a recognized chronic condition need regular checks and care, and sometimes lifestyle coaching. Acute conditions are often recognizable via telehealth with diagnosis and treatment therefore available more quickly.

Surgeons are also supporting the use of telemedicine in surgical follow-ups. Post-surgery care is invariably crucial to the successful recovery of patients; without good care, readmission to hospital is more likely. Through telemedicine – in particular, via video link – health care providers can easily monitor their patients as they recover from the surgery.

Another area where the medical community is embracing telemedicine is in the field of mental health services. It’s widely believed that there is currently a crisis in American mental health. Telemedicine can expand access to mental health and emotional support services to those in remote areas or those who simply do not have adequate care close by. It’s also often easier for a person who may be suffering from depression or from low self-esteem to speak to a specialist via a video link rather than in person.

A further positive influence of telemedicine is seen to be in the remote monitoring of patients to make sure they are taking their medication or are following specific medical instructions. An example might be the adjusting of insulin based on glucose readings. Again, this not only helps the patient, but also means less time taken in follow-up by the caretaker and less hospital re-admissions.

According to the Pareto law of medical diagnosis, 80% of diagnoses come from the discussion of symptoms and 20% as a direct result of an examination. So telemedicine can be useful in the many situations where a physical examination is not required and also in situations where the patient might simply wish to ask his/her doctor some questions about a non-life-threatening condition or a health need. These services can often be available 24 hours a day, making it easy to see that savings can be made on time, travel, and work-loss hours.

Similarly, medics are quick to recognize the important role telemedicine plays in the running of small and/or remote hospitals. Such hospitals may not have the resources to keep a radiologist or a pathologist, for example, in-house 24/7. Or they may not have a particular specialist in house. Telemedicine allows images to be transmitted to the relevant person anywhere at any time, meaning data can be analyzed and specialists can view ultrasounds and offer an opinion.

Divan Medical - health technology

Many medical practitioners and patients alike are embracing the technology that makes telemedicine possible.

Some of the negative views on telemedicine offered by the medical community include the fact that telemedicine regulations vary greatly from state to state and can be difficult to interpret. Some physicians simply don’t have the time or the wherewithal to look into the guidelines for their own particular state.

Another unfavorable view is to do with the technology involved. Some physicians feel that their patients may not be computer-literate enough to be able to embrace telemedicine. Others are concerned about the cost of purchasing and setting up the necessary equipment. Training may be required in their practice and possibly the hiring of additional IT staff. Also, with technology of course comes technical glitches, which could happen during a virtual consultation. Some physicians are wary of this.

However, the above potential problems notwithstanding, it’s been found that even if they are perhaps initially hesitant in the use of telemedicine applications such as video appointments, once physicians start using them, they are often very surprised by the versatility of video technology and how it enhances their services.

More and more members of the medical community are coming on board with telemedicine. Guidelines need to be streamlined, technology a little more secure, and the availability of broadband intensified in order for even more people to embrace it. There’s no doubt, though, that telemedicine is the future and that it could have a vital role to play in your own wellbeing.