Pros and Cons of Telehealth for Patients & Providers

If telehealth is a service that you have considered using for your ongoing healthcare, you are not alone. Studies show that 37% of all American adults used it in 2021 and grew further in 2022. It is fully expected to become the norm for an even greater percentage of the population in 2023 and beyond.

However, weighing up the pros and cons of telehealth before adopting it is vital. Here’s all you need to know. 

Table of Contents

What Is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the practice of distributing health-related services remotely via digital communication. While primarily considered as telemedicine, which is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients, telehealth extends to cover health education and health information services.

With a CAGR of 35%, telehealth is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the healthcare and medical industry. Millions of patients turned to it during the pandemic and continue to use it in the post-pandemic era.

How Does Telehealth Work?

The fundamentals of telehealth services are no different to traditional healthcare. Patients connect to a registered professional doctor, who can subsequently assess the patient to provide a diagnosis before developing a treatment plan or making a prescription.

Instead of in-office interactions, though, telehealth is provided remotely via modern tech. Research shows that live video has now overtaken live phone services as the primary method while other solutions include text, email, picture or video, and app or website. Telehealth can connect a patient to a doctor regardless of whether they are at home, work, or any other location. 

Who Should Use Telehealth?

Telehealth can be used by patients across a broad range of demographics, although there has been a clear increase in prevalence amongst older age groups. The clinical application of telehealth has been particularly noteworthy in mental health cases as well as the management of chronic health issues like diabetes. However, as it becomes more widely adopted, telemedicine is now used for an extensive list of physical ailments. 

Pros and Cons of Telehealth for Patients

Understanding the pros and cons of telehealth services is necessary to determine whether it is right for you. Let’s take a look at both.

Pros of Telehealth

Just over one million Americans used telehealth services in 2012, but that grew to over 27 million by 2022.  There are many incentives behind this growth, including those detailed below:

Increased Accessibility

Accessibility is a major selling point for telehealth services. You can connect to a telehealth provider from the comfort of your home or even when you’re on vacation. It is particularly useful when you live in a remote location or if you struggle to attend an in-office appointment due to a lack of transport or the physical constraints of an illness. Similarly, it removes the potential impact of adverse weather.

Convenience

When comparing telehealth to in-person services, the added convenience of remote services cannot be ignored. You can connect to a professional doctor within the hour while you also avoid the struggle of trying to get through to a receptionist. Better still, remote appointments cause far less disruption to your day as you can continue with other responsibilities as soon as the online appointment ends.

Affordability

The financial savings gained from telehealth are another huge benefit for patients. Aside from removing the costs associated with travel, remote healthcare services are often cheaper. This is because health providers make operational savings that can then be passed onto the patient. On average, this brings the costs down by around 50%.  It should also be noted that insurance claims can be used for telemedicine.

Increased Comfort

The comfort gained from remote healthcare services is far greater than in-person visits. Patients will have the comforts of their home surroundings. Likewise, anyone who needs to use medical equipment at home will have their own machinery for blood pressure monitoring and related actions. The fact that you do not have to keep moving from one location to another is hugely advantageous if you have temporary or permanent mobility limitations.

Reduced Risk of Exposure to Infectious Diseases

As shown by the ongoing battle to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in hospitals, the risk of exposure to infectious diseases should be a concern for all patients. Telehealth and telemedicine allow patients to avoid potentially dangerous environments, which is particularly useful when you have a low immune system. Reduced patient numbers also protect patients who continue with in-person visits.

Improved Monitoring of Chronic Conditions

With telehealth, patients and doctors can monitor chronic conditions with clarity by looking at statistical data and records. It is possible to check test results, request prescription refills, send messages, schedule appointments, and more with ease. The ongoing records of the patient’s weight, food intake, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar level will also enable healthcare providers to deliver the best care at all times.

Increased Privacy

When visiting hospitals or medical care facilities, it can feel like everyone from receptionists to medical assistants and other patients will know the details of your condition. When working one-on-one with an online doctor, it feels more private. This can reduce your anxiety linked to visiting a doctor. Furthermore, telehealth providers implement the best data privacy strategies to keep your sensitive information safe.

Improved Continuity of Care

In addition to monitoring chronic conditions and the changes to your health, telehealth makes it easier to coordinate care between primary care providers and any other relevant specialists. Sustained Continuity of Care (SCOC) is statistically shown to provide better patient outcomes including reduced hospitalizations and improved preventive medical services. The added clarity provided by telehealth makes a huge difference.

Greater Flexibility

Telehealth can be used for a range of purposes and can additionally be tailored to suit the patient. Updates can be provided through apps, video calls, SMS messages, emails, and other methods of communication. Likewise, the timings of appointments and other aspects of all virtual meetings can be designed to reflect the patient’s needs due to their lifestyle or medical conditions. Healthcare is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution.

Cons of Telehealth

While the benefits of telehealth are plentiful. It should be noted that there are some potential drawbacks for patients. Firstly, some people still prefer the intimacy and connection provided by in-office care from their family doctor. 

Perhaps more noticeable, however, are the limitations of telehealth. As mentioned above, it can be used for a wide range of healthcare activities. However, there are several conditions that can only be diagnosed with a hands-on approach. Similarly, blood work and various body imaging practices also need in-person support.

Depending on the condition, patients may need to invest in home medical equipment to monitor their blood pressure or general health, although many patients that need these items would require them for daily life even if they continue to visit an in-person doctor.

Pros and Cons of Telehealth for Providers

Telehealth has been increasingly adopted as a cost-effective means for delivering and accessing quality healthcare services not least because it can reduce medication misuse, unnecessary emergency department visits, and prolonged hospitalizations. However, financial savings aren’t the only reason why healthcare providers now utilize telehealth services either to replace or complement their in-office solutions.

Other positive factors linked to telehealth for healthcare providers include but are not limited to;

  • They can treat patients from all over the country,
  • It is possible to treat patients remotely even when they can’t get to the practice,
  • Time management becomes easier as it removes late patient arrivals,
  • There is no risk of picking up viruses from patients,
  • It removes the risk of overcrowded physical waiting rooms,
  • Doctors can create more flexible hours of service,
  • The use of telemedicine can make it easier for doctors to bill insurance firms,
  • Doctors can continue to provide care when they have an illness or injury,
  • Appointments are often shorter, meaning they can treat more patients,
  • Healthcare providers can achieve better patient satisfaction scores.

When looking at how virtual doctor visits work, you can see that doctors are able to provide prescriptions and stay in touch with patients. However, there are some potential issues for providers. Most notably, issues can surface if the patient lacks mobility, equipment, or good communication skills. Meanwhile, poor internet connections may lead to delays and disruptions.

As far as the operational aspects are concerned, telehealth providers also face increased pressure in relation to sensitive data protection. However, cybersecurity is an issue for traditional healthcare providers too.

All-in-all Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons of Telehealth?

When looking at the pros and cons of telehealth, most providers and patients will agree that the pros significantly outweigh the cons.

While some issues remain in relation to communication and the fact that some services can’t be provided without in-person care, the logistical and financial benefits of telehealth are incredible. When combined with the fact that it reduces any anxiety linked to seeking medical care, it is no wonder why an increasing number of patients are turning their attention to this method of care.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

Whether you require telehealth services as a permanent solution or because traditional support isn’t currently available, partnering with the best online doctor is vital. 

DrHouse can connect you to a reliable specialist in as little as 15 minutes, providing personalized care from diagnosis to ongoing treatment plans. 

Key Takeaways

Telehealth has grown at an exponential rate over the past decade and now plays a significant role in the lives of millions. 

While there are some limitations in relation to what type of healthcare services can be provided remotely, the benefits of remote healthcare make it an ideal solution for the diagnosis and treatment of many health conditions. 

When connected to the right online doctor, it can transform your approach to managing your health for the better.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

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