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Telemedicine – How effective is it?

According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), there are four fundamental benefits to the development and use of telemedicine:

  1. Improved Access: Distant patient locations, multiple physician locations, and reach to both urban and rural areas are indicators that telemedicine affect both patient and physician. Patients located in areas with a bad transportation system or even rural areas with almost no contact from surrounding areas cause an escalation in normally manageable conditions because these people do not have appropriate means of seeing a doctor. On the flip side, physicians are sometimes working in different locations. This system allows physicians to work out of multiple locations if needed without the wait time of travel and being unavailable in other places.
  2. Cost Efficiencies: Travel, data sharing, physician availability and demand, treatment and overall patient management are all things that are available through telehealth and telemedicine. Alone and without this benefit, these services and technologies can become very expensive. With easy access to all of these, costs are greatly reduced.
  3. Improved Quality: Certain types of consultations can sometimes be handled remotely. This has proven true and beneficial in mental health care where patients are sometimes at ease and more comfortable at home or their staying facility. Similarly, patients in ICU are immobile and limited to their bed find that telehealth and medicine is quick and effective in times of need.
  4. Patient Demand: Above all else is the growing demand of patients for their healthcare to be more readily available. Being able to receive a good quality of healthcare from any place, at any time, and sometimes at a more affordable price is what good service is all about. According to the ATA, this trend has been increasing in demand over the past 15 years.

But beyond the main four reasons lay further support for telemedicine. Having to take time off work for personal care has become an issue for the working class and often times, waiting too long before a doctor visit ends up more costly than seeking treatment at the first signs of illness.

Similarly, recent studies have shown overall improved health amongst the elderly population from the utilization of telemedicine. The four points listed by the American Telemedicine Association are all reasons why this type of care works and is needed in older adults. According to Doxy, 38% of patients had fewer hospital admissions and re-admissions were reduced by 31%.

So is it effective? The general consensus, the changing times, technological advancements in every aspect of our lives, and the need for alternatives all point to yes. There are cons, such as the behind the scenes technical training and equipment and policies and rules for reimbursements; even so, these issues seem to be overlooked in surveys because of every other added benefit that telehealth and telemedicine have brought to the communities it now serves.

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American Telemedicine Association:
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