The benefits of telemedicine
Telemedicine services allow a person to receive specialist advice without leaving home. He does not need to go, stand in lines, pay for parking, ask for leave from work, look for a nanny for a child, and so on. These circumstances also point to the possibility that remote consultations can help save money. However, the data on the usefulness of this format is not so clear-cut.
Reducing the cost of medical care
“The main cost item for a consultation is the time of a doctor, who, even with an online appointment, must be on the territory of a medical institution. Thus, remote consultation cannot be much cheaper than face-to-face consultation, ”Yulia Galanicheva, Head of the Strategic Program, Medicine Unit, VSK Company, told MedPortal.
Galanicheva pointed out that the retail cost of consultations in Moscow varies in the range from 500 to 5000 rubles, depending on the specialization and qualifications of the doctor.
The impact of the use of telemedicine on the cost of a doctor’s consultation depends on how the healthcare system is organized and how expensive it is to consult a doctor in person. Many foreign sources point to cost reduction among the merits of this method. For example, in 2014 in the United States, remote counseling helped to reduce the patient’s expenses per visit from an average of 176 to 45-50 dollars – more than three times.
Improving access to help
Telemedicine is obviously more convenient for those patients who find it difficult to get to the doctor personally, and to whom the doctor himself does not get as often as he would like. We are talking about the disabled, the elderly and those who live in remote areas. Of course, only people who own and know how to use modern electronic devices can feel the benefits of innovation.
Telemedicine under compulsory medical insurance is not available in all regions of Russia. But at least 10% of our insurers on VHI use the possibilities of telemedicine reception, Yulia Galanicheva clarified.
Prevention and management of patients after hospital discharge
Many people have risk factors that increase the risk of serious health problems (eg, strokes, kidney failure) and death. Without regular communication with specialists, these patients often do not follow preventive recommendations.
An example is a study that was published in 2012. It involved 203 patients with myocardial infarction. Those who regularly received remote medical consultations had better blood pressure and blood glucose values than those who did not use telemedicine services. The authors of the scientific work believe that telemedicine can reduce the risk of re-heart attack.
Slowing down the spread of infections
This issue became especially acute with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visiting medical facilities can be associated with the risk of contracting various infections in the same queue to the doctor, and this is not only about coronavirus infection. The increase in the volume of telemedicine care can relieve the burden of medical institutions and reduce the risk of infection.
Both in Russia and abroad, telemedicine is recommended to be used to help patients who are undergoing COVID-19 treatment at home. Recall that in our country there is a free hotline for COVID-19. You can get advice by calling 8 (800) 2000-112.
Disadvantages of telemedicine
We have named the availability of care among the virtues of telemedicine. However, accessibility issues can also be disadvantages. Patients and even medical institutions may not have the necessary equipment; many people still do not know how to use modern video communication means. Damage to technology or communication at any level calls into question a patient’s meeting with a doctor.
In addition, telemedicine cannot always be used in principle. Of course, it is rather difficult to name a branch of medicine in which remote consultations are completely impossible: it may be appropriate even in surgery – for example, for the management of postoperative patients. However, many diseases require communication with a doctor “in real life”, a real examination. Telemedicine does not provide the ability to conduct analyzes, instrumental examinations and certain methods of treatment.
In Russia, laws do not allow doctors to make new diagnoses remotely. Therefore, only people with an already established diagnosis can receive remote assistance.
Another possible problem is traditional for the use of electronic means of communication and platforms – the problem of information security. Experts fear that unauthorized access to personal data transmitted through electronic communication may be obtained.