The Pros and Cons of Telehealth
The influx of new technologies has dramatically transformed the medical community in recent years. From electronic health records to patient portals to telehealth, technology now plays a huge role in the health care world. Medical professionals are busier than ever meeting an ever-growing population of patients with diverse sets of needs. Technology can provide a way for physicians and nurses to treat patients easier and with greater accuracy than ever before.
One of the most influential technologies to impact the medical arena in the past decade is telehealth. To put it simply, telehealth is the collection of a broad range of technologies and methods to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services for patients and providers. Telehealth in itself is not a specific service, but rather an umbrella term for a variety of tactics to enhance medical care delivery.
Traditionally, the term telemedicine was used when referring to any kind of clinical diagnosis or monitoring that occurred with or over technology. Now telehealth is more commonly used to describe management, education, or diagnosis in the medical field. Some areas in which telehealth may be present include counseling, home health, disaster management, chronic disease monitoring, occupational/physical therapy, and professional education.
According to certain studies, around half of the country’s hospitals use some sort of telehealth solution. Recent surveys of health care executives discovered 90 percent of respondents had started the process of implementing telehealth programs at their organizations. Even small clinics and offices are adopting modern telehealth practices to better care for their patients. With this in mind, here are a couple of pros and cons of telehealth:
Patients want telehealth
The vast majority of patients today would prefer that their health care providers turn to telehealth for a variety of reasons. Telehealth solutions can prevent scheduling conflicts and reduce travel time for patients who have hectic work schedules or lack easy accessibility to their doctors’ offices. Instead of having to miss work or travel a great distance to their nearest providers, they can consult with their physicians over a video chat or order their medications through a patient portal.
This ease of access is one of the primary motivating factors for most patients to engage in telehealth initiatives. If they are able to easily speak with their doctors or make appointments for an in-office visit, they may be more diligent about preventative care measures, which could reduce the need for medical procedures, the risk of readmission or the development of chronic illnesses later in life. This possibility is because patients in rural or far-away areas can receive specialist referrals without having to first take off additional time to meet with their primary care doctors.
Improved access and quality
As mentioned previously, patients demand telehealth because it offers unparalleled convenience. While important, telehealth also allows providers to bring necessary health care services to patients in distant locations as they were not able to meet before. It allows these physicians and nurses to expand their reach beyond their local communities and gain more patients than they would be able to without telehealth.
The timeliness and quality of care are huge selling points for both doctors and their patients. Now, patients experiencing non-emergency symptoms or ailments can address their health care issues quickly with real-time urgent care consultations and gain treatment options or prescriptions within minutes – resulting in the ability to improve patient outcomes in a number of ways, including connecting patients to the right specialist – or team of specialists – in a reasonable amount of time. From the physician-side, online consultations free up their schedules in the office so they can meet with more and spend more time with patients.
Technical training and equipment needs
The technical nature of telehealth services might not be a challenge for large health care organizations but could be difficult for smaller clinics or offices. While technology improves processes and frees up time spent on administrative duties or consultations, high-quality technological solutions will require a restructuring of IT responsibilities or even additional help. This necessity could lead to added costs, scheduling or troubleshooting issues.
Additionally, physicians, nurses and other members of the medical staff must be fully trained on all new systems and solutions to ensure there isn’t any downtime and that practices can achieve maximum return on investment. This need for technical training may also mean that hiring managers might look for new hires who already possess the necessary technical skills they need to perform their jobs effectively, thus limiting the applicant pool.
Difficulty with patient records
Before telehealth becomes mainstream, there may be challenges with obtaining patient records for telehealth appointments. Some on-demand telehealth services connect patients with random health care providers, which may cause continuity of care to suffer in the long term. Patients’ primary care providers might not have easy access to the records from these visits and work off incomplete histories that could lead to misdiagnoses or other issues.
To reduce the chance of this shortfall, consumer telehealth providers must maintain adequate and accessible patient records and have options for patients to send off their medical information to their primary care offices. This way, physicians can offer high-levels of continual care and reduce the risk that patients don’t receive the highest possible quality of care
While there are pros and cons to implementing telehealth solutions, most studies and industry analysts believe telehealth is the way of the future for the vast majority of health care organizations and practices.
This is why it is highly recommended that new or returning nurses have a firm grasp of medical technology tools and systems.
Students who earn their BS in Nursing completion degree from Rutgers University will learn about how modern technology, such as telehealth, can improve patient quality of life and operational functionality. A higher level of education in the nursing field can enable these medical professionals to provide the best service possible to those individuals who need it most. Contact one of our program representatives today to learn about our comprehensive online program.