For each person, an essential aspect of one’s life is health. Health is a component in our lives that allows us to survive through the years, function in our everyday lives, and more. It should always be taken care of and given proper attention. Many people, throughout their lives, do not consult doctors for annual checkups, are scared of medical tests and laboratories, and more. Some people, because of how busy they are at work, totally neglects or forgets about the most important aspect of their life, their health. Moreover, some even practice habits that are detrimental to it.
Some do not go through consultations because they feel it is unnecessary to undergo check ups because of the inconvenience it brings, be it on time and the effort to travel to the doctor’s office. However, with the advancement of technology and innovators’ efforts, people can now avoid the inconvenience mentioned earlier with medical consultations becoming available through online platforms and telephones.
More so, due to the pandemic crisis we are facing today, countries and local areas have been left no choice but to implement a lockdown for everyone’s safety. People have been forced to stay at home and for businesses to close down. Schools closed down, and social gatherings were prohibited. Even something as essential as a checkup was not allowed unless it was an urgent matter. Everyone had to accomplish different tasks online: banking, shopping, going to classes, and the likes (even functions that they never thought could be possibly done through the Internet). Also, medical consultations had to be held online or through telephones.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the medical practice of delivering health-related services and information through telecommunication technologies and electronic data. Telemedicine allows a physician and other healthcare professionals to provide care to a patient at a distance. Through telecommunications technology, health experts can evaluate, diagnose, and provide treatment remotely.
Telemedicine’s popularity now can be attributed to the pandemic crisis forcing us to go on with our daily lives through technologies. However, it made its debut way back in the later years of the 1950s. They created this for senior citizens who cannot go out of their homes to see a doctor in their clinic. Also, telemedicine was designed for those in rural areas that have challenges in reaching a physician. Not only did it provide access to medical or health-related services, but it also contributed to the increase of patient engagement over the years.
Patients and physicians exchange information through different platforms. They can also see and evaluate medical readings from devices that patients might have, such as a sphygmomanometer for blood pressure and the likes. This communication is real-time, and patients will be able to ask doctors questions, describe the symptoms they feel, and get immediate answers and diagnosis. This shows the advantages we get from telemedicine being available at just the tip of our fingers and a dial on our telephones.
When it is an urgent matter, we can immediately contact a physician practising telemedicine without scheduling an appointment and going out of the comforts of our home. It is also time-efficient as we won’t incur travel time and we won’t have to wait in waiting rooms. When a person is also at work, he/she won’t have to go through the hassle of filing a leave. More so, availing telemedicine services is known to be more affordable than in-office consultations.
As beneficial its use and purpose may be for many, there are still numerous pressing concerns about telemedicine, primarily provided by insurance companies.
Insurance companies require medical underwriting for different insurance packages. Clients can get a complete checkup with various medical tests from clinics, medical offices, hospitals, laboratories, and telemedicine doctors. Other factors and preferences concerning a client can lead them to opt for telemedicine.
Although telemedicine is convenient and efficient, the downside to it is that doctors must follow the limit set by companies in how long the consultation should be. It is usually only for two minutes. If the talk goes beyond it, the insurance companies won’t pay the physician, and he/she would have to collect the client’s payment directly. Other than the difficulty in collecting fees and the added work because of it, there are other billing issues to consider, such as patients preceding treatment when the bill is outside of their insurance coverage and more.
Because of the limited time provided for consultation, can we be sure that the telemedicine doctor will be making an accurate diagnosis? The patient will be asked essential questions and will be describing symptoms. When the time is up, the doctor will have no choice but to diagnose based on the given information within two minutes. Physicians work hard to offer what they can and fulfil their duties as healthcare providers, but they are restricted in what they can do for their patients. Thus, we should not hold telemedicine doctors to the same standards people have with non-telemedicine doctors.
Patients must understand that telemedicine doctors from insurance companies can only do so much for them. If the symptoms you are experiencing are severe, it would be best to go to a clinic for a consultation or find a telemedicine doctor that offers consultations that are not time-restrained. Suppose a physician is confined and deprived of the freedom and opportunity to perform at his/her maximum skills, potentials, and capabilities. In that case, we should not evaluate them based on the same standards we have for doctors that are unbound by restrictive policies.
Telemedicine doctors held to outdated standard of care may be held accountable for malpractice cases if they make an inaccurate diagnosis based on the patients’ information. This will be unfair for them as to whether the patient could give full details beyond their control. Thus, they should not be deemed responsible for situations beyond their control. It is with no doubt that non-telemedicine doctors who have complete information and full consultations would perform better.
All that said, the standard of care for non-telemedicine doctors would be inapplicable, outdated, and unfair if held against telemedicine doctors.