Telemedicine and telehealth services are currently on the rise, but for a lot of healthcare seekers, the idea of getting health issues taken care of over the internet can seem like strange new horizons.
Telehealth services can come along with lots of benefits for both the patient and the provider, but as with most good things in life, there will always be a few wrinkles or quirks that may make this new frontier a no-go for some conditions or people with certain preferences when it comes to their care.
If you are considering launching into the world of telemedicine, but want to know more about the benefits and hang-ups first, read on to learn more about the pros and cons of telemedicine services.
Telemedicine Services Pros:
Healthcare from home
This one seems obvious, but telehealth and telemedicine services are services that you can access and wrap up from the comfort of your own home.
This means no commute, no missing work, no babysitters to arrange, or if you are feeling particularly ill that day — no need to get out of bed.
For most people, this is the biggest draw for telemedicine and also makes sense from a public health standpoint if you think you may have something contagious like a cold or flu.
Potential cost savings
While this may not be the case with every telemedicine service or for every treated condition, a lot of telemedicine platforms could end up saving you a pretty penny when you add up all the expenses that normally come along with an in-person office visit.
Gas, missed hours at work, parking fees, visit co-pays, and prescription prices can all be lumped together into what becomes a pretty hefty dent in your bank account for just one office visit.
With telehealth services, all the little expenses like gas and parking can be avoided completely, and sometimes the visit itself is free, leaving only a clearly stated cost for any prescriptions you may need.
Bonus: As an added perk, some telehealth services will even ship out your prescription to you for no additional cost.
Get care faster
Places like the emergency room and urgent care centers are supposed to be the quickest way to get care, right?
Well, not necessarily.
These places can be pretty fast, but with limited staff, packed waiting rooms, and the possibility of someone coming in with a life-threatening issue, if you are there for something less severe — you could be waiting a while.
With telemedicine, you have nearly instant access to doctors who specialize in what you need treatment for, meaning that for non-life threatening issues like skin conditions, ED, hair loss, cold sores, etc., your appointment could be wrapped up in a matter of minutes, rather than hours.
And, when you compare telemedicine to your usual scheduled in-person office visit, you could have that acne issue addressed online in the time it would take you to jot down your 2-weeks-out dermatology appointment on your calendar.
Avoid missed wages or babysitter fees
The obvious costs incurred during a doctor’s visit like a co-pay or prescription cost, aren’t always the whole story.
For hourly workers or stay-at-home parents, there may also be pricey items like hours missed from your paycheck, or having to schedule in a babysitter just to get that lingering health issue checked out.
With telemedicine, the hours are much more flexible allowing hourly workers to avoid missing work at all, and telemedicine doctors are less likely to mind if you have a toddler in tow during the appointment.
Steer clear of others who may be sick
If you think that you may have come down with something contagious, it is better for everyone if you get everything checked out from the comfort of your own home (unless it is severe and you need emergency care, of course.)
And, on the flip side, if you just need to be seen for a rash or a toenail fungus, the last place you want to be is a waiting room with someone coughing and sneezing.
By utilizing telemedicine for mild but potentially contagious issues, or just your run-of-the-mill concerns, you help prevent exposing others to germs while also keeping yourself in the clear.
Healthcare access for rural areas
Living out in places with vast stretches of land and beautiful, clear, starry nights can be great and idyllic, but if you end up needing to see a specialist for something that your local small-town doctor doesn’t handle, it used to mean you were in for a long trip.
With telehealth, many specialists of the world just got that much closer, even for those who live in rural areas.
Prescriptions shipped to your front door
For anyone that has ever needed a prescription, you know that going to the doctor is normally a two stop situation.
After the doctor’s office, you then need to pop over to the pharmacy which can range anywhere from a 2 minute pick-up to a seemingly all-day debacle.
Many telehealth services know the frustration of extra pharmacy trips and the potential embarrassment of getting something personal filled, so prescription shipping is commonly wrapped into the entire service.
Telemedicine Services Cons:
Need access to basic technology and internet
In 2020, it is rare to find someone who doesn’t have instant access to the internet whenever they want it, or a computer or smartphone handy. But, for some, they never really got in line with the digital age, and getting online for a telemedicine consult could seem like a bigger hassle than hopping in the car and driving to the doctor.
For others, the expense of a computer or internet connection may be out of their price range, making telemedicine services not as good of a fit as an in-person visit.
Basic computer skills may be required
Not everyone grew up with computers around, and this could mean that their computer skills are not quite up to snuff to be able to navigate a telemedicine platform to receive care.
This may be remedied by getting help from a friend or family member to access a telemedicine service, but some would rather be seen by a physician the old fashioned way.
Not always covered by insurance
The world of telemedicine and telehealth have come a long way, but certain insurances still haven’t fully adopted ways to compensate providers or patients for every telemedicine visit available.
It is possible that the telemedicine service you want to try out does not work with your insurance, or is a cash only operation, and paying out of pocket may not work for every person.
However, most telemedicine services are very upfront with their costs.
If cost is an issue, call and speak with a representative to see if they are currently running any discounts, or if they are able to help you get the care you need online for less of an expense to you.
Some conditions are not suited to Telemedicine
As you can see above, telemedicine services are pretty great, but there are still a lot of medical conditions where they are not appropriate.
For some conditions, there is no substitute for an in-person examination, urgent tests, or the ability to be able to quickly hop in for emergency care.
Anything that is severe, life-threatening, acute, causing lots of pain, or could easily become serious quickly, is not a good candidate for a distanced telemedicine consult.
Telemedicine platforms tend to focus on lingering, minor, irritating, and non-urgent issues.
No in-person contact
The lack of a personal face-to-face conversation in the same room with your provider can be a negative for some people who tend to like a more personal feel to appointments.
This is more of a personal preference, but for those who like to go more old-school when it comes to their visits — telemedicine may feel a little too clinical and impersonal to them.
Telemedicine platforms are a developing new frontier of medical care.
Some may love this new way to address medical concerns, but others may discover that this new realm is not for them.
Telemedicine and telehealth can come along with many benefits including potential cost savings, time savings, faster care, avoiding sick people, increased access to healthcare for rural areas, and prescriptions sent to your door.
Some potential negatives about telemedicine services can include less access for those without basic technology or computer skills, the potential of paying out-of-pocket, and that not all conditions are appropriate for online treatment. The world is becoming increasingly more connected through the internet, and healthcare is no different.
Telemedicine services have been essential to urgent care facilities, too. It seems like most people who need a COVID-19 test go to urgent care instead of a GP or hospital, so most places now have robust telemedicine arms so folks don’t have to come in if they don’t have to. I can imagine it’s saved many people at this point.