As digital technology becomes more ubiquitous in the field of medicine, telehealth is being hailed as one of the greatest aspects of 21-st century healthcare. Regardless of location, devices equipped to handle medical consultations can assess, diagnose, and even to treat patients from anywhere in the country.
With an expected 30% increase in the use of telehealth devices and systems in the next decade, it really seems like the best thing since sliced bread (or penicillin whichever way you look at it.) Though despite such a rush toward the streamlining of digital doctor visits, there may still be some inherent problems with telehealth technologies as they exist today.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of telehealth break down:
• Storage and Forwarding Services: Refers to the collection, storage, and ability to access patient data such as MRI’s, lab results, and other reports used for future assessments made by healthcare professionals.
• Real-time Consultations: Using phone calls, video conference software, or other mobile applications to interact and diagnose patients from a remote location.
In its current form, some of the most widely used benefits of telehealth services include:
• Access in rural areas
• Increased specialist access
• Lower costs
• Better patient outcome
Problems Telehealth Still Has to Solve:
So with these benefits having the potential to improve the healthcare system as a whole, there are still a series of unresolved problems and issues to overcome. While streamlining telehealth can make the process of seeing patients more efficient, the industry is still struggling to find a place for such technology to be integrated universally.
To start, defining what constitutes good telehealth and bad telehealth is relatively uncharted territory, although the Federation of State Medical Board (FSMB) did provide guidelines back in 2014. Still, telehealth may operate on the periphery of mainstream brick-and-mortar facilities with its flexibility making it an easy go-to option for many.
Although despite this accessibility, many consumers remain hesitant to consult doctors over the internet due to a traditional view of what it means to “go to the doctor.” While it doesn’t make sense to avoid the emergency room with broken limbs or grave injuries, doctors can usually get to the bottom of routine illnesses like strep throat, fevers, headaches, urinary tract infections, etc. Still to do so accurately requires the integration of biometric devices and consumer knowledge on how to use them effectively.
Another huge area of concern is physician-to-physician consultations. Usually, in an actual facility or clinical setting, physicians can double check and consult one another about a specific problem. With the somewhat disjointed way telehealth is meant to function, patients may miss out on physician collaboration. Yet, as the adoption of telehealth technology continues, it’s likely that we’ll start to see a more developed network of physicians consulting one another over difficult diagnoses or procedures.
Yet, there’s a double-edged sword when it comes to easy connectivity. Physicians may need to consult one another, however, being able to do so without hesitation could run the risk of compromising patient privacy. Not only that but with increased adoption there’s also the potential that sensitive information could be intercepted by nefarious digital entities. Hopefully, widespread usage throughout the industry will also warrant the necessary security procedures.
For now, telehealth remains an efficient way to streamline physician-to-patient consultations while preserving the integrity of healthcare providers’ missions and goals. Problems aside, more people are benefiting from these services every year to the benefit of both the healthcare industry as a whole and public health.