5 busted myths about telemedicine

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When speaking about telemedicine people seem to be quite confused about whether to go for it, or treat it like another one-season gadget no one will ever remember in a couple of months. Sure, we do pay our bills directly from our electronic bank accounts and we do reserve transatlantic airplane tickets via carrier website. However, when it comes to health, we back up and pilgrim to the closest clinic without any hesitation. To prove it wrong, we’ll bust some essential myths about the whole mysterious telemedicine issue.

Myth #1: Telemedicine is a new, still underdeveloped domain, which needs further research before it can be implemented and reimbursed.  

Dear readers, it is so not true! The World Health Organization in its Telemedicine report states as follows: Telemedicine, in its modern form, started in the 1960s in large part driven by the military and space technology sectors, as well as a few individuals using readily available commercial equipment. Telemedicine has been under constant development for over 50 years! It’s not its fault that newcomers to the telemedicine field haven’t heard about it and believe it to be something new. Only at the moment radiologists are using teleradiology, a pacemaker is being checked on via telephone or specialists are taking care of a patient in an intensive care unit. The further research postulate is quite questionable, too. Only in the U.S. National Library of Medicine there are over 10,000 articles from over the last 10 years regarding telemedicine issue. Still not enough? Of course, more research will be always welcomed, however, its cost-effectiveness, safety, effectiveness and patient acceptance have been already comprehensively proved.

Myth #2: People are reluctant to use digital services for healthcare

Most of the healthcare executives stand on a position that, due to the sensitive nature of a medical care, digital services should be used only in a few specific situations. Such a premiss indicates that patients are the ones who are severely reluctant to get along with the telemedicine. Such an approach is completely misleading. One of the leading telemedicine research and development company, McKinsey & Company, conducted a survey in Germany, Great Britain and Singapore in order to investigate patients’ digital preferences. Not so surprisingly, it was found out that over 75% of surveyed patients would like to use the digital healthcare services. The reason they do not do so already, is that the digital services do not meet their needs and are of poor quality. Furthermore, the survey indicated that people from all of the group ages are “more than willing” to use the digital services for healthcare. It was stated that patients over 50 want digital healthcare services nearly as much as their younger counterparts.

Myth #3: Telemedicine is only about providing health care to remote areas and is limited to the general advice.

Certainly at the very early stage of the telemedicine development the idea was to target remote areas with very basic, general advice. However, at time the whole idea of Internet was only to share documents and articles (btw., check out 40 maps that explain internet). At present, suburban and inner city hospitals work in networks providing intensive care services and other specialty care. Just look at this list: remote monitoring, teleradiology, mHealth applications or telemedicine for emergency response. All of them are being deployed both in rural and metropolitan areas, and certainly are not limited to the general advice field.

Myth #4: Telemedicine is expensive and requires special equipment

There are two the most common applications in telemedicine: remote monitoring and teleradiology. Both of them rely on sending still images and data. Sometimes, of course, medical images may need high speed lines, but in most cases not necessarily two way and not at the same speed as high quality video. Telemedicine being expensive approach leads to another misconception regarding the field. Let’s look briefly at the US numbers. Most online doctor visits cost patients less than $50 per consultation. The cost to the patient is often similar to the cost of a co-pay for a traditional office visit and is subsequently submitted for reimbursement. There is even more interesting data presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. 85% of consumerswho had online visits completely resolved their healthcare issues.

Myth #5: Telemedicine can be a significant threat to patient privacy

To be honest, I really love that one. There is a lot of talk about privacy fears. Sure, I can imagine that medicine and health care is a kind of a sensitive matter, but still, at the times of the internet banking privacy is no longer an issue. The use of medicine can provide a secure, efficient way to transmit medical information. Data encryption, information flowing over telecommunications lines can be just as private as paper-based records. Frankly, there is no longer anything to be afraid of.

Telemedicine is still a growing field of health care. However, it is crucially important not to submit your opinions to the urban-legend kind information. Not only is patient’s privacy no longer in danger while using telemedicine, but also it neither requires special equipment nor is limited to the general advice. The latest studies have shown explicitly that people are no longer reluctant to the medicine, so hopefully over 50 years of studies could finally contribute to the general health care effectiveness enhancement.

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