Telemedicine has evolved over the years into a dependable, reliable service in many areas of healthcare management. Studies and experts suggest benefits for both patients and clinicians.
What Is Telemedicine
Telemedicine refers to clinical care delivered from a distance – often using a smartphone to video chat with clinical care providers. This could include communication or even virtual visits with primary care doctors or community health workers.
Telemedicine allows access to medical doctors and healthcare providers in areas that otherwise have limited access to clinical care. Telemedicine also allows patients to choose their doctors regardless where these providers are located. Studies prove the effectiveness of telemedicine.
Advantages to Telemedicine
Telemedicine can help with triaging patients. When patients first discuss their symptoms to medical professionals, telemedicine might help to get the patient the exact care they need. This can be an excellent solution to referrals from primary care providers.
If an individual is experiencing some symptoms of RA, telemedicine might save that individual a trip to a primary care provider to just be referred to a specialist in the end.
Telehealth technology can also help post-surgery significantly with follow-up care. Especially in minor procedures that require just a single over-night visit, video and phone-based follow-up visits might help with patient-engagement. Surgery and recovery can be uncomfortable—and additional time in hospitals can be risky for people with RA or other autoimmune diseases as the risk of developing an infection is higher.
Mental health is another area where telemedicine can improve patient outcomes. Discussing issues, mood, behavior, etc. with a licensed behavioral health provider can be done virtually.
Patients in Rural Areas
In the past, individuals seeking specialized care might have had to travel a good distance to reach a specialist. This is especially true for people in rural areas.
A qualitative study shows that travel can be a real challenge for #RAWarriors. Findings show on average outpatient #RAWarriors see a medical provider to treat their condition 4.4 times a month. For #RAWarriors that live in areas with little access to rheumatologists, this can pose a real issues.
Disadvantages to Telemedicine
Despite the growing interest in telemedicine and telehealth services, some patients have some serious concerns about this modality of medicine. Even though the method of communication is secure (US federal law requires the connection between patients and providers must be HIPAA compliant), some individuals might find telemedicine strange at first.
With remote sensory technology and video chats, physical exams do not require the patient and the doctor to be in the same room. The general consensus is still that for first-time physical exams, telehealth is not a best-practice.
Most #RAWarriors have pain management as a priority in their treatment plan. Telemedicine certainly is not feasible when an individual needs injectables. Many doctors agree that pain management may be best treated in-person.
A telehealth system can deliver care to individuals. But, it also has the real potential to be interfered with because of technology problems. Poor internet connection or system issues can lead to poor user experiences that may not be beneficial to patient or doctor.
Many patients are rapidly adopting this modality of medicine. It is a technology that has been shown to increase patient engagement, patient outcome, and patient-flow remarkably for #RAWarriors. If you are looking for more ways to interact with your RA treatment team, telemedicine may be a great addition to your healthcare toolkit.