Telemedicine: What To Know

Telemedicine uses electronic and telecommunication technology to provide an exchange of medical information, despite a person and their doctor not being in the same room.

It can be as simple as text messaging medical care to as advanced as remotely controlled surgery.

Experts have used telemedicine in clinical settings for decades, with its first reference in a clinical setting recorded in medical literature in the late 1950–1960s  Telemedicine allows a person to seek a doctor’s advice about nonemergency situations that do not require an in-office visit.

Currently, 76% of hospitals in the United States connect with people at a distance. They do this through video conferencing or other technology.

Telemedicine Uses

  • Doctors can use telemedicine for many purposes, including:
  • general healthcare, such as wellness visits and blood pressure control
  • nonemergency follow-ups
  • mental health counseling
  • nutrition counseling
  • prescription for medications
  • physical therapy exercise
  • tele-intensive care

Benefits of Telemedicine

Comfort and convenience

With telemedicine, people can access care in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. This reduces the need to travel, arrange for child care, and leave work.

It cuts off waiting time and allows people to arrange their consultations around their busy schedules.

Increased access to care from a distance

Telemedicine helps make healthcare accessible, especially for people living in rural areas.

2020 study found that telemedicine provides some of the population access to care without potential:

  • stigma
  • marginalization
  • discrimination

Cost-effective option

Telemedicine consultations may be more affordable than in-person doctor visits and admission to the emergency rooms.

2020 review found that there was a reduction in health costs by 56% and travel costs by 94% when doctors used telemedicine in the following settings:

intensive care unit (ICU) rooms

  • pediatrics
  • dermatology
  • radiology

Family support

Telemedicine allows family members and caregivers to join in the consultation, ask questions, and provide information to contribute to their family member’s care.

Prevention of chronic diseases

2021 review found that telemedicine helps provide timely delivery of preventive care to people with cardiovascular diseases. This helps prevent acute events and the progression of these diseases.

Contextualized assessments

Telemedicine helps healthcare professionals like occupational and physical therapists observe a person in their natural environment. This allows them to perform more thorough evaluations of the person’s abilities to move around and interact with their environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions and answers on telemedicine.

What are the costs involved?

The costs vary on the telemedicine provider, the specialization of the doctor, and whether it is an evaluation or a follow-up visit.

On average, a single visit costs $79. This is significantly cheaper than a doctor’s visit, which costs $146, or an emergency visit which costs $1,734.

Who Can Use Telemedicine?

Anyone seeking medical treatment can use telemedicine. This may especially benefit those who are:

  • living in a remote or rural location
  • part of the vulnerable population
  • homebound and bedbound
  • restricted by tight schedules

Summary on Telemedicine

Telemedicine bridges the exchange of medical information between the doctor and the patient through technology.

The service ranges from email to sharing relevant information and test results to robotic-assisted interventions.

Telemedicine offers a range of benefits, including comfort, convenience, savings, more contextualized assessments, and the involvement of family members in a person’s care.

However, it has drawbacks, including compliance and liability concerns and technological glitches.

Those who want to opt for this mode of care may ask their practitioners if they provide telemedicine. A person may also consider different telemedicine companies with practitioners licensed to treat in their location.