Telehealth is becoming more and more common in healthcare to expand access of care and offer alternative care options. Routine examinations, follow-up appointments, and virtual therapy sessions can all be completed via telehealth communication.
In past years, remote patient monitoring has been more common than other forms of telehealth, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are opting for alternative care options when in-person visits are not absolutely necessary. Telehealth has allowed patients to obtain the care they need, even during pandemic times, and has opened the door to a new era of healthcare.
With the increased use of telehealth, we can likely expect to see more of these services continue on permanently. Telehealth expansion is convenient for both patients and providers, allowing them to communicate when convenient for them and schedule appointments more flexibly. However, while telehealth provides an abundance of benefits, there are also some drawbacks and limitations to this technology currently.
Advantages of Telehealth
There are many benefits of telehealth for both patients and healthcare providers. One of the great things about telehealth expansion is its accessibility. Patients can communicate with their providers when it's convenient, making it much easier to access healthcare.
Often, patients will have to take time to travel to their appointments, making it difficult to obtain the care they need without disrupting their daily lives. Telehealth eliminates this problem, allowing them to receive the care they need while going about their daily tasks.
During the pandemic, reducing exposure to in-person contact, when possible, has reduced the spread of COVID-19 and protected more vulnerable patients. Going forward, the ability to utilize telehealth can protect patients from other risks of healthcare facility visits like infections and prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses.
Telehealth is also very cost-effective for both facilities, providers, and patients. Eliminating the need to go into a medical facility can eliminate travel costs, administrative work, and more expensive care options when available, like emergency rooms and hospital stays.
Disadvantages of Telehealth
While telehealth can be useful for many healthcare services, there are still some drawbacks of virtual care compared to in-person care. One disadvantage of telehealth is that not all visits can be conducted virtually. Some tasks such as drawing blood, performing imaging, and physical examinations need to be done in the office. This can limit some of the services providers can provide through telehealth.
Security is also a concern when it comes to utilizing telehealth. It is more difficult to maintain privacy and protection for patients' information across the internet. Many patients may not feel comfortable with their information being transmitted virtually and security breaches can be one of their concerns regarding telehealth.
Current Limitations of Telehealth
While telehealth is currently expanding, it is still not being fully utilized in ways that it could be. One reason for this lack of telehealth adoption by some healthcare providers is technical knowledge and understanding. Some providers may not be fully aware of the benefits of telehealth and how to implement it into their practice. Further adoption and expansion will require more time and training to adapt to.
With telehealth being new and confusing to some providers and patients, there can also be more complications to utilizing it. They may not know how to use an online portal or virtual visit platform because they are unfamiliar with the technology. Hopefully, patients and providers will become more familiar with them in the near future.
Not all states allow certain telehealth services, and various healthcare disciplines may have limitations to providing care in certain fields or locations. Some healthcare specialties may not be able to utilize telehealth in the same ways that others are able to, holding back the expansion of these types of services in some areas. This is an evolving process, and in the future, we can expect to see more disciplines being able to utilize telehealth in their practices.
While insurance is covering more and more telehealth services, not all are within policies. As a result, some services that are performed through telehealth may not be covered the same, potentially leading to unexpected costs or higher out-of-pocket expenses for patients. This can make using telehealth seem inconvenient for those receiving care.
Telehealth Expansion Continues
Telehealth has gained popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons. It is convenient and allows patients more direct access to the care that they need. While there are many benefits of using telehealth, there are still areas of development needed to make it practical for a larger number of healthcare providers and patients.
Since not all services can be performed virtually, there will always be a need for in-person visits in some form. Still, many visits can be simplified and made more accessible and affordable for patients and providers through the implementation of telehealth.