Technology influences almost everything we do, from making phone calls to ordering food. Our healthcare is no exception. Healthcare fields are relying more on telemedicine for all aspects of patient care. Thanks to telemedicine, doctors and nurses in large cities can now provide advice and treatment to rural patients via webcam. Patients can look up symptoms and read over possible diagnoses. However, is the U.S. ready for telemedicine? Do the liabilities outweigh the advantages? The answer depends on the healthcare you need.
Advantages of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a great alternative for patients, especially those whose symptoms follow a pattern. For example, if you know you are prone to colds in winter, telemedicine can allow you to speak to a doctor via webcam and call in a prescription using a service like Teladoc. You can then go on with daily tasks, without making a trip to the clinic and sitting in a waiting area with other sick people whose symptoms might worsen yours.
Even patients with more serious conditions, such as heart or blood pressure-related illnesses, can benefit from telemedicine. Today, many of these patients have internet-connected monitoring devices that can send remote reports to their doctors. This way, the patient only needs to come into an office if the situation is unusually serious.
Challenges of Telemedicine
Despite these advantages, challenges still exist. Telemedicine is not a regular practice in many states, and this influences how physicians may practice it. For instance, Minnesota medical statutes state a physician in Minnesota may practice telemedicine without a Minnesota license if he or she provides telemedicine services once a month or to fewer than ten patients per year. This gives physicians some freedom, but places a burden on their employers to make sure each state has a system in place to monitor telemedicine requirements. Statutes like Minnesota’s can also make patients feel uncomfortable, as they allow less time for doctors to build rapport and learn patient needs.