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Telemedicine: More Than Just A Virtual Doctor’s Office

It’s no secret that new innovations are often compared to what exists in the market already. People compared computers to typewriters and phones to telegrams. They couldn’t imagine that we would talk to each other the way we do on Facetime or have the entire world at our fingertips thanks to the internet.

It takes about a generation of advancements for new technologies to gain the recognition they deserve. Telemedicine is our generation’s phone; underappreciated for its capabilities and severely underutilized.

Currently, telemedicine, otherwise known as telehealth, is viewed through the lens of convenience as a simple alternative to in-office face-to-face care. There’s no doubt it made great strides during the pandemic; allowing patients to receive care when going out into public was impossible.

But limiting telehealth to a digital exam room keeps it in a box that it’s far too large to stay confined in.

Telemedicine can provide optimal care, unlike anything we’ve ever imagined. The technology can drastically cut down healthcare costs while providing access to the highest level of care for patients anywhere in the world. In other words, telemedicine isn’t a substitute for medical care; it’s the future of transforming it!

For those who still doubt telemedicine’s potential to turn the healthcare world upside down, these three examples of telehealth solutions are perfect examples of its impact on patients’ lives.

 

  1. Telehealth can provide more efficient specialty care

Imagine you have a concerning growth on your back, so you make an appointment with your doctor, but he’s unsure of what it could be. He (or she) gives you a referral to a dermatologist, but you cannot schedule an appointment for another two weeks.

On the day of your appointment, you take off work and wait two hours in the waiting room before you’re finally seen and receive a diagnosis and prescription for medication. A few weeks later, you’re rewarded for your time and effort with a $300 bill you’re stuck paying out of pocket since it doesn’t meet your deductible.

That’s a lot of time and money wasted for a growth, and if you’d used telemedicine, the process could have been significantly simpler. Now, picture instead, your doctor could connect you instantly to a dermatologist specializing in growths like yours. They could listen as you explain your problem area and, alongside your doctor who is still in the room and prescribe treatment immediately. Now you can walk out with your prescription without the extra frustration and expenditure. That example isn’t just a hypothetical; it’s already happening!

Even before the pandemic hit, doctors at Kaiser Permanente in South America were using telemedicine on their dermatological patients. They report that telehealth worked 70% of the time, often in less than five minutes. Not to mention that it was a fraction of the cost. Telemedicine benefits go beyond growths and skin conditions; if you factor in all the possible specialty referrals, it solves over 40% of all problems patients face.

Yearly, physicians make over 210 million specialist referrals, meaning that there would be a savings of hundreds of billions of rands if 40% of those referrals were handled through telehealth. Many times doctors only require minimal advice to care for their patients, but the current healthcare system requires patients to receive a full consultation or nothing at all. With telemedicine, physicians of all specialties could have virtual consultations whenever they needed, making it the superior method for patient care.

 

  1. Telemedicine removes geographical barriers

Whenever a patient receives a challenging diagnosis, they always ask where the best physician is located. Too often, the care they need is out of reach, making them settle for inadequate options.

With telemedicine, it doesn’t matter where a doctor is located; they can view x-rays, look at pathology slides, consult with other doctors, and plan operative procedures. Not only is it more convenient, but thanks to the technological advances in picture quality, specialists can clearly see the patient’s condition so they can recommend a course of treatment.

Many people must go from doctor to doctor to get the treatment they need for complex and rare conditions, costing thousands of rands for multiple opinions. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to never receive a correct diagnosis or necessary treatment. This dilemma no longer has to be the case thanks to telemedicine.

 

  1. Telemedicine reduces the need for ER visits

With all the advances in technology, it can’t keep you from becoming sick or getting injured. When it’s after hours or on the weekends, you may have no choice but to make a costly ER visit.

It’s believed that around 2/3 of all emergency room visits are avoidable. Telemedicine can provide after-hours visits to those in need, reducing the necessity of the expensive ER trip by 70%.

 

Telemedicine Vs. Traditional Care

When you add everything up, it’s clear that telemedicine can deliver more than traditional office care. Not only is telehealth more convenient, but it’s also more affordable and far faster, producing higher quality results. Before the pandemic, telemedicine only accounted for 30% of all medical services; but it can do so much more.

However, telemedicine’s benefits won’t reach their full potential until doctors and patients see it as more than an alternative to in-office care. It’s clear that South Africans are tired of the broken healthcare system; the only reason they tolerate it is the lack of other options. Just like when a computer seemed impractical and overrated until people realized its full potential, telemedicine won’t gain traction until people understand what it can do. But, they came around in the past, and once they see how amazing telemedicine can be, they’ll never want to go back to the way things were.

 

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1 Comment

  1. April 20, 2023 - 10:27 am

    […] is a leading provider of telemedicine services in South Africa. We make it convenient for patients to have one-on-one consultations with […]

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