Telemedicine has been growing in popularity in a big way over the past decade. With the advent of super-fast internet and super-powerful personal mobile devices, it has become possible to use telemedicine to meet more and more different types of medical needs remotely. Due to the rise of telemedicine, there has been a decrease in the need for people to use their local doctor’s surgeries. Today, illnesses that would have necessitated a visit to your local doctor in bygone years can be treated remotely using telemedicine.
Will telemedicine ultimately lead to the end of the local doctor’s surgery? It’s an interesting question. But the answer seems, as yet, unknowable. Telemedicine offers many big advantages over the local doctor’s surgery. But there are also some advantages that the local doctor’s surgery currently holds over telemedicine, and it’s hard to know if telemedicine will develop to the point where it catches up in these areas.
In this article, we will suggest some arguments for and against the motion that telemedicine will ultimately lead to the end of the local doctor’s surgery.
By necessity, most of the points in this article are speculation, as the future is (as always) impossible to predict with certainty.
Technology Is Improving Exponentially
Advances in technology are constant and relentless. Technological advances sweep humanity along with them. It’s often a case of “adapt or die (or at least become obsolete)”. Technology is sure to reach a point where telemedicine offers a service that is so efficient, so hyper-effective, so completely perfect, that the service offered at the local doctor’s surgery will never be able to compete.
Telemedicine Is a Huge Time Saver
As populations grow and cities become more crowded and hectic, people have busier schedules and less time to waste. Telemedicine already makes medical consultations much quicker, and as telemedicine technology improves, the time savings will only become more dramatic. Soon, a trip to the local doctor’s surgery will seem like an unforgivably uneconomical use of time. This could result in the local doctor’s surgery going the way of the dinosaurs.
The Potential For Human Error Will Become an Unacceptable Risk
As technology gets quicker, smarter, and more advanced, it will become far more reliable and less error-prone than human beings. When technology reaches the point at which it is much less likely to make a mistake than any human, then going to a doctor’s surgery to have a consultation with a flesh-and-blood doctor may come to been seen as a risk not worth taking when something as important as the health of yourself or your children is at stake. Telemedicine will become better as technology becomes better, and when it reaches a point of near-perfect reliability, the local doctor’s surgery could easily come to be considered a “dangerous” place.
Our smartphones contain a computer more powerful than the computer that took Neil Armstrong’s spaceship to the moon. As technology advances, it becomes easier and cheaper to mass-produce incredibly advanced machines. Soon we will have such advanced technology at our disposal for such a cheap price that telemedicine services will cost us very little. When the cost difference between visiting your local doctor’s surgery and using a telemedicine app becomes large enough, nobody will use their local doctor’s surgery anymore.
People Inherently Prefer Face-to-Face Communication
It’s in our DNA to enjoy and prefer face-to-face communication. When it comes to issues as important as health, many people will always prefer the reassuring experience of being treated in-person by their friendly local doctor. Thoroughly hardwired for in-person contact as we are, it is very possible that some people will never fully trust technology when it comes to health. And of course, mobile electronic devices do not give lollipops to anxious toddlers who have come down with mumps! The fact that humans value a personal touch so highly may mean there will always be a place for the local doctor’s surgery.
Certain Medical Conditions May Never Be Fully Treatable Remotely
Many conditions can already be fully diagnosed and treated using telemedicine, and more and more will become fully treatable using telemedicine as the technology improves. But it seems highly possible that there will always be certain treatments, such as various forms of physical therapy and vaccinations, that require an in-person visit to a local doctor’s surgery.
Technology Will Never Be 100% Reliable
Planes still fall out of the sky, the internet still gets frustratingly slow at busy times of the day, iPads stop working for no apparent reason, high-tech machines of all types still malfunction. Sure, technology is improving all the time, but it is still far from perfectly reliable, and there is no reason to believe that perfect reliability will ever be achieved. This means there will always be a need for the local doctor’s surgery.
New Technologies Often Co-Exist Alongside More Antiquated Versions of Themselves
E-readers have not caused the demise of paper books, lots of people still prefer to listen to albums on vinyl, many patients still choose Freudian psychotherapy over Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and most businesses still choose flesh-and-blood accountants over robo-accountants to organize their books. So, even accepting the superior service that telemedicine provides in many areas, there will probably still be people who prefer the experience of visiting their local doctor’s surgery.
It’s certainly an interesting debate, and there are valid points for and against. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.