Demand for telemedicine services continues to grow. Roughly 40 percent of millennials view telemedicine as a “very important” healthcare option, and 79 percent of patients consider a telemedicine follow-up consultation more convenient than a traditional in-person meeting.
However, despite the obvious demand, telemedicine continues to face resistance from some healthcare professionals. The Deloitte 2018 Surveys of US Health Care Consumers and Physicians found that 90 percent of physicians recognize that telemedicine offers benefits, yet just 14 percent use it.
And just a third of those with access to telemedicine equipment take advantage of it on a regular basis.
One possible reason for scepticism towards telemedicine is the number of myths surrounding it. Here are five of the most common—and the reasons they’re not true.
1. Telemedicine services are complicated and intimidating
Telemedicine at its most efficient relies on cutting-edge technology. This may make it appear off-putting to some, especially those of older generations who lack experience with video-chat tools. But that fear doesn’t need to be a reality.
Essentially, telemedicine is just another form of communication available to doctors and nurses, along with email, telephone and mail. Each of these involves processes that were once innovative and complex.
Sending an email, for example, is easy to take for granted but was revolutionary not so long ago. And there are several steps involved: sending an email requires users to set up an account, log in, input the correct address, compose a message and (possibly) add an attachment.
Setting up and executing a video call incorporates multiple steps, too, and is no more difficult than sending an email. That’s why 90 percent of patients prefer speaking with a physician via video chat rather than an in-person visit.
Patients can use video chat to speak to an online doctor on their smartphone rather than a computer, with apps like PlushCare. It’s just a case of downloading the app and setting up an account — no technical skill is required.
This simplicity may encourage those intimidated by laptops to adopt telemedicine and recognize its superior convenience.
2. Telemedicine is non-compliant with electronic health records (EHR)
Another common myth surrounding telemedicine is that it doesn’t work with electronic health records. While some platforms may be unable to integrate with EHR (or, at least, struggle to do so), others can.
EHR-integration empowers physicians with instant access to patients’ medical history and aid their assessment/diagnosis. It also saves patients from needing to repeat prior health problems, treatments or appointments whenever they interact with a doctor or nurse for the first time.
The laws in most countries, such as the U.S., allow for telemedicine. Check with the laws in the jurisdiction where you practice medicine, of course, but in most cases telemedicine is fully compatible with EHR regulations.
3. Physical exams are mandatory
Physical exams are a necessary aspect of good healthcare, which is why some physicians avoid telemedicine: they’re unable to interact with patients as they would in a face-to-face consultation.
However, physical exams aren’t essential for every visit, as proven by the widespread adoption of telephone-based appointments. Video appointments are an extension of this, affording doctors and nurses a crisp real-time view of their patient.
Physicians can see physical symptoms, discuss medical histories and determine if a hands-on exam is necessary. Telemedicine also is a convenient, time-saving way to conduct follow-up appointments in cases which require no physical exam.
For example, patients may use telemedicine to check-in with their doctor when requesting antibiotics or antidepressants online. If the doctor genuinely feels a physical exam is necessary, an in-person visit can be arranged.
Telemedicine also can be a reasonable stand-in when rural or immobile patients struggle to be able to see a physician in person.
4. Telemedicine isn’t a secure way to communicate with doctors
The best telemedicine platforms comply with HIPAA.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule established the United States’ first national standards to safeguard patients’ personal or protected health information (PHI). Patients have a right to request their own PHI.
Telemedicine solutions built for the healthcare industry come with encryption and access controls that make HIPAA security compliance a non-issue. While some consumer solutions might not be a secure way to communicate with patients, purpose-built telemedicine platforms are secure.
5. The costs are too high
Telemedicine is growing. And this means providers continue to offer competitive pricing to gain a foothold in the market.
Research shows telemedicine offers a saving of between $19 and $121 per visit, by “diverting patients from more expensive care settings” such as emergency departments.
In terms of the equipment required, patients can connect with doctors via a smartphone app (as previously mentioned). There’s no need to invest in a top-of-the-line laptop or an expensive webcam set-up: downloading an app is a simple, cost-effective alternative.
Telemedicine makes healthcare accessible from any location with an internet connection, so there’s no need to pay for gas or public transport tickets. Savings also apply to doctors, as they may be able to interact with patients outside their practice.
This means lower overheads and allows them to see more patients than they would during standard office hours.
With almost half of millennials considering telemedicine important and patients of a wider age range preferring video-based follow-ups, demand is high — and likely to keep growing as technology makes it more efficient.
Healthcare providers should embrace telemedicine and take advantage of the benefits it offers, to ensure the most convenient, cost-effective patient care.