Telehealth — what it can and cannot do for you
Since we released Healee about a month ago, we’ve received mostly positive comments and reactions which, of course, makes us happy and confident that we’re on the right track.
But there are sceptics as well — people who don’t feel comfortable getting help from a doctor through an app, no matter how experienced and qualified the doctor on the other end is.
There’s the notion that the doctor should meet the patient in person, that the doctor should be able to examine the patient face-to-face, and that the doctor should be able to use “special doctor devices and gadgets” to come up with the right diagnosis.
As a matter of fact, these people are right. To a certain extent.
Specialities that get along well with telehealth
A face-to-face doctor’s visit could sometimes be necessary. However, there are a good number of cases where getting a consultation through an “online visit” could be just as effective.
To be more specific, here is a survey among doctors, showing the specialities for which doctors rated telehealth as most useful:
- Dermatology: 76 %
- Psychiatry: 54 %
- Infectious disease: 46 %
- Pain management: 37 %
- Neurology: 36 %
Telehealth as a means to get second opinion
The above figures refer to merely primary consultations. Telehealth could be even more effective when you are looking for a second opinion from a specialist.
For example, you already have some lab results ready, you have some medical images (MRI, CT, X-ray, etc.) at hand, maybe even a tentative diagnosis, and you are looking for advice, to better understand your condition, get more info and peace of mind.
Telehealth — what doctors can and cannot do
Naturally, there are many specialities and cases where telehealth alone might not be sufficient:
- A surgeon obviously can’t perform an abdominal exam online (but using telehealth for post-operative care makes perfect sense!)
- A pulmonologist (lung doctor) may still need to use a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s breathing (but telehealth, as an asthma management option, is as effective as in-person visits!)
- An ENT doctor may still need to use her otoscope (but a recent study showed that 62% of ENT visits would be eligible for telehealth!)
- A gastroenterologist or an endocrinologist may still need to use ultrasound (but according to a recent study, telehealth consultations improved glycemic control in diabetes patients similar to face-to-face visits!)
Devices that (still) only doctors have
Then comes the question about all the tools and gadgets that doctors use in their work.
Indeed, there are many devices that you’d normally expect to only see at the doctor’s office. At least for now.
The good news is that a lot of devices are quickly getting more and more accessible, cheaper and “cloud-prepared”.
Over the next 5–10 years, people may find out that for a very reasonable price they could have and use at home:
- a decent stethoscope (https://www.thinklabs.com)
- an otoscope (http://fireflyglobal.com/de-500-usb-digital-ear-scope)
- even an ultrasound scanner (https://www.clarius.com/products/curved-handheld-ultrasound)
- or maybe even the entire kit (https://vsee.com/hardware)
The idea is you use all these devices from your couch at home, while the doctor consulting you could be hundreds of miles away.
The future of telehealth — now
In light of all that, it’s not difficult to see how the role of hospitals could shift in the near future to that of centers for special treatments and complex interventions.
You won’t have to leave home for things like getting a routine exam, talking to a doctor when you are down with the flu or have a rash, or when you need a second opinion, advice or simply peace of mind.
In fact, most of these benefits are available even now. In many cases, telehealth is already a perfectly viable alternative to seeing a doctor in person.
Moreover, with telehealth you can get much more timely help, without having to wait months to see a specialist for a problem that may be getting worse over time.