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Before the COVID-19 pandemic that drastically altered what we perceived as our way of life, telemedicine was seen by some as a promising and convenient mode of providing medical care.
Progress had been made in combining and to some extent creating technologies to enable doctors to utilize telemedicine concepts. However, questions around how readily patients would adopt the technology persisted.
COVID-19 certainly answered many of those questions whether we were ready or not. Lockdowns, quarantine periods, and hospitals fast filling to the brink needed the medical community to come up with solutions fast. Telemedicine was uniquely placed to help solve many of these problems.
Lessons in a time of Pandemic
State and national health agencies found that one of the greatest advantages telemedicine offered when hospital admissions were beginning to skyrocket was the ability to remotely triage patients so that those in urgent need had a better chance of receiving the care they needed.
Telemedicine also became a vital tool in helping to diagnose patients who believed they may have come into contact with the disease. This helped alleviate the patients’ concerns of having to go to a facility that may experience extended periods of overcrowding, the last place individuals want to be when they have been told to stay at home.
Another advantage seen by many was that telemedicine limits the need for human-to-human contact. This slows down the rate of infection, making it hard to argue that telemedicine offers little in the way of real benefits to society.
Risks and Challenges
Often, major players in the IT market connect to the telemedicine segment. In the telemedicine market, both developers of medical applications and companies that produce a full set of specific devices for virtual medical examinations are in demand.The development of telemedicine is associated with certain difficulties and risks.
First, the confidentiality of patient data can be compromised. To develop an efficient telehealth application, it’s better to choose a HIPAA-compliant cloud platform that ensures safety.
Telemedicine is the Future
The adoption of telemedicine was not without its teething problems, like with many other sectors forced to cross the digital divide at a moment’s notice. For telemedicine to thrive shortly these problems will need to be addressed in more comprehensive ways than the workarounds that were found before we could even think about a vaccine.
Lack of access to broadband internet highlighted the reality of the digital divide. In the US 19 million individuals lack access to fast and reliable internet, meaning that for these individuals telemedicine is a pipe dream for those it could have the biggest impact upon.
In third world countries where there are vast distances that need to be traveled just to receive care, telemedicine can be a lifesaver if the infrastructure is put in place. This includes providing individuals with devices and the internet that will allow them to communicate with medical professionals.
Concerns have also been raised at how telemedicine is being hampered by the current regulatory framework that dictates operations and to a large extent how medical insurance will reimburse those who opt for telemedicine consultations. However, it has been noted that telemedicine provides a level of care many require, and efforts are being made to amend regulations.
While there are still hurdles to clear to ensure telemedicine remains a model of care, these are not so insurmountable to detract from the advantages many have already seen by adopting the technology. Telemedicine will become an increasingly utilized tool to help those in need.