Telemedicine boomed during the pandemic, but it isn’t like this is something new. Doctors have been doing teleconsult for years. The only difference is that it got a little bit more tech-advanced these days. But that doesn’t mean it has no unique challenges of its own. Read more here.
The thing about telemedicine or teleconsult is it’s super important, especially during a pandemic. But its importance doesn’t eliminate the challenges that health workers face whenever they have to consult with a patient online. Doctors bear the brunt of these challenges because they have to diagnose and treat patients according to only what they see and hear online. They couldn’t check their pulse. They couldn’t hear how they breathe. This, in itself, is already a challenging situation for many medical practitioners.
During the pandemic, patients relied on telemedicine for consults. Doctors—even those who are traditionally opposed to telemedicine—can’t help but consult with patients online, too. After all, they took an oath and more than a vocation, being a doctor is a profession, a business. Still, a survey of doctors in the past year revealed unique challenges brought about by not being able to see patients face-to-face.
Lack of Integration
The first and foremost is the lack of integration of health systems. If the electronic health records (EHR) system doesn’t coordinate with the platform the doctors are using, they will find it hard to access medical records and past prescriptions. This makes record-keeping more complicated than it already is. The only upside to this is that most eprescribing platforms are already integrated with the systems that pharmacies use, so they can easily dispense the medicines.
This is a major problem for doctors and other health care providers. There are limitations to the kind of medical services that health insurance policies cover. When it was time to get reimbursed for the doctors’ fees, they found out that many of the services they provided patients are not covered by private and federal health care providers.
But coverage limitations are not the only problem with this. Doctors also have a hard time tracking the claims if they are working from their homes and not from clinics and hospitals. They have to document the receipts themselves if they are doing telemedicine from their home office.
Lack of Technical Skills
Unfortunately, most patients also do not know how to use telemedicine platforms and tools. They also do not know how to take their blood pressure, oxygen level, blood glucose level, and many more. They fail to explain in detail what they’re feeling. This is a problem because doctors have to know these details—the color of the phlegm, the sound of their cough, the consistency of their poop, and many other things.
Senior adults have a harder time accessing their doctors during the pandemic, too. Because they don’t know how to operate the telemedicine platform, they usually forego consulting a doctor. This is a diagnostic problem that doctors face every day when they do teleconsult.
The cost of equipment and software is also scaring doctors away. This is a major concern for hospitals, clinics, and health care practitioners. They do not only need the devices, but they also need to maintain the software. Most pharmaceutical companies are offering to provide this equipment to the doctors, but that comes with a price, of course. Doctors have to work with these pharmaceutical companies (even if they don’t want to) if they use the platforms they provide. In the long run, this will be a question of ethics.
Telemedicine is convenient but it also presents a lot of privacy problems. Not all health institutions have their own portals, and not all patients are eager to go through websites they don’t understand. They would rather send instant messages in apps they already know. For skilled hackers, it is a gateway to get through systems and access all the health records, prescription records, and personal information of a patient. This is why many patients don’t feel comfortable dealing with doctors online, and the reason why doctors also are not very welcoming to the idea of telemedicine (aside from the fact that they are having a hard time diagnosing patients).
Most people are not aware that telemedicine is now as efficient as face-to-face consultations. Doctors don’t usually advertise or market themselves. So, unless the patients actively look if they are offering telemedicine consultations, they’ll usually be unaware that they can consult online. The medical field hasn’t always been the biggest client of marketing and advertising agencies, but that should change now. With competition left and right, it’s only prudent that health care providers plan their launch via content marketing and social media to get the word out.
Telemedicine is here to stay. It isn’t something that will go away in a year or two, or when the pandemic is over. It will be a part of a physician’s life as much as it will be a part of the life of every person who needs to see a doctor but cannot because of a variety of factors.