The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Anyone who has endured spending too much time in a crowded waiting room waiting for a doctor can appreciate the benefits of an early and much-missed aspect of our healthcare system: the humble house call. And if you’ve ever felt so sick that you would much more prefer having a doctor see you at home than endure spending even a minute in a waiting room with other coughing individuals, a house call would be ideal. It helps conserve your strength as well as keep you from infecting others in public.

However, there are too many people and not enough medical professionals currently working (let alone in the educational pipeline) to enable us all to enjoy the benefits of house calls that so many doctors used to make, carrying their iconic black bag with the basic tools and medicines of their trade.

To address the need for more convenient healthcare delivery while acknowledging that in-person house calls are a luxury the system cannot really afford, computer scientists are aiming their talents at developing robust telemedicine systems.

Telemedicine consists of connecting medical professionals with patients over a network, such as phone lines or the Internet, using the audio-visual capability currently built into most smartphones, tablets, desktops, and laptops. Not everyone is going to be on board with telemedicine, especially in the earlier stages. Here are the pros and cons of telemedicine.

Initial Consultations

A pro of using telemedicine for an initial consultation is that the patient can get immediate access to a medical professional, regardless of location.

A con is that the doctor cannot actually touch the patient or take readings. In the initial stages of general telemedicine adoption, we can expect it will be used more to do things such as diagnose a case of the flu or to conduct a mental health evaluation.

Follow-Ups

If your office visit to a doctor consists of him or her hearing how much it hurts or doesn’t hurt or to see if a rash has subsided, there may really be no need to physically be there. This is a major pro for telemedicine. A con is that there may be some other changes in the patient that can only be identified through direct examination.

But if a patient is checking in to see if another week of antibiotics is needed and this can be determined through a series of questions, telemedicine is obviously ideal.

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