Telemedicine: Pros and Cons for You
Telemedicine—the exchange of medical information using the internet or other information technology—allows physicians to quickly and directly transfer medical records, x-rays, and lab results from one site to another, consult with specialists and other doctors for second opinions, monitor a patient's vital signs from a distance, continue their medical education through distance learning and video conferences and, in some cases, communicate with patients without having them come into the office. While there are many reasons for patients to embrace this system, there are also a few potential problems.
- You can use the Internet to get specialized health care information from medical centers and join group forums to get support and information from patients with similar problems.
- If you live in a remote area and need medical care from a specialist who is located hours away, your local primary care doctor can communicate necessary information to the specialist so that you can get specialized care without having to travel long distances.
- If you are homebound, you or a visiting nurse can take your vital signs and submit readings such as your blood pressure, glucose, ECG, or other results to a central monitoring station for analysis.
- If you have a simple question for your doctor, you may be able to send it via email or "visit" your doctor's office through videoconferencing.
- Digital applications allow you to access health information on your cell phone, tablet, or other portable electronic device.
- Having an electronic personal health record system allows you and your doctors to have instant access to all your medical records. This could be especially helpful, and even lifesaving, in an emergency.
- You may have to go in to your doctor's office anyway because there is no physical contact or direct observation of physical symptoms.
- If you are communicating with your doctor from your office or your home, you lose the privacy of being seen in a medical office.
- Power outages can disrupt communication.
- Online information can be hacked. The security of your private health care information could be compromised or you may find that only limited health information may be transferred due to privacy concerns.
- Older patients and some physicians may not have the same comfort level with technology as younger people.
- Although ultimately cost-saving, the initial cost of setting up a reliable telehealth system could ultimately be transferred to patients.
Mayo Clinic: Telehealth: When Health Care Meets Cyberspace
The American Telemedicine Association:
Yan H, Gardner R and Baier R. "Beyond the Focus Group: Understanding Physicians' Barriers to Electronic Medical Records." Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 2012 Apr;38(4):184-91
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