The Telemedicine Tele-vantage

     The past few years have seen many new digital options. Can that work in the area of medicine? What are some things to look into or keep in mind?

     The pandemic over the last roughly three years has brought about a prevalence of “all things online.” Many of us learned to use Zoom and DoorDash when we hadn’t before. Or maybe we use online pick up now at our favorite store. Even the medical field has begun to transition to an online world, with many doctors offices now offering virtual appointments. Medical professionals don’t always use digital options, but it has become much more prevalent, and certainly has its advantages. Below, we explore the pros and cons of telemedicine, and what patients should consider when thinking about it.

No Need to Worry About the Distance

     During the pandemic, being able to visit with your doctor virtually meant that you didn’t have to actually go to the doctor’s office. (Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management) Not only did this mean avoiding any germs, but it also meant that you didn’t have to travel to the doctor’s office. You can typically access telemedicine from anywhere you have phone or internet access.

     This continues to be a potential advantage for those who live in very rural areas or far away from their healthcare provider.  (Indiana Law Review) Telemedicine options can be very beneficial for TS patients in this aspect since it can allow patients to find more options for healthcare providers who are specialized in their condition, as there are not very many endocrinologists who specialize in TS (This has expanded care in perinatal cases, which may prove helpful for TS patients diagnosed in utero or very early). Access to quality healthcare is crucial and has long been a topic of discussion.  Telemedicine is one way to bridge that gap and provide that to a broader range of society. (The Milbank Quarterly)

A Timesaver

     Telemedicine can also be a time saver. For the doctor, it can mean quick phone calls or video chats instead of needing to go from room to room. Some may set aside specific days or blocks of time for this in order to use time efficiently. This can give a doctor time to see more patients and can allow them more time to have a thorough visit with patients who need it. It can also allow doctors to have more time to research conditions to better treat their patients.

     For the patient, it can primarily mean not needing to factor in travel time.  Sometimes telemedicine can mean a quicker appointment to speak to someone (a next day phone call instead of weeks or months before an appointment to come into the office).  In terms of time off from work, this can mean little to no time off, depending on the job and employer. This can allow patients to spend time on other obligations they have in their lives. Parents can parent. Students can study.

Is There a Downside?

     There are a few downsides to telemedicine or things to keep in mind in considering using telemedicine.

     Some healthcare professionals simply do not use telemedicine. They may not be set up with the technology or processes to take advantage of this avenue for interacting with patients. Their area of healthcare may also be one that doesn’t allow for telemedicine since there are lab tests, diagnoses, or exams that would necessitate the patient coming in. Some areas have taken the opportunity that the pandemic provided to find alternatives.  One such is the BOSA (Brief Observation of Symptoms of Autism) (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders) where providers have created a means to potentially diagnose Autism in a remote setting.

     Patients would also need to be set up with the technology to take advantage of telemedicine and know how it works.  (Indiana Law Review) This can potentially be difficult if you have multiple providers that use multiple systems.

     Cybersecurity is a consideration for both healthcare providers and patients.  HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has helped with digital access to healthcare records and providers. Its primary purpose is to ensure that your records aren’t discussed or disclosed to anyone but you without written permission. This means that patients will also need to employ skills and knowledge to prevent others from accessing their records.

In Conclusion

     Telemedicine is a great option to accommodate busy schedules and patients who live too far away from their specialists. Having doctors appointments virtually can save time, money, and stress. It can also allow patients with rare conditions to see specialists, even when there are none nearby. It can’t help tests and diagnoses that must be done in person, but it can at least allow for easier communication between a patient and their healthcare providers.

"I believe that in person visits are ideal in medicine, as nothing really takes the place of hands on physical exams and in person discussions."

Written by Helen Rhoads, TSF volunteer blog writer. Edited and designed by Catherine Melman-Kenny, TSF Blog Coordinator.

© Turner Syndrome Foundation, 2023

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