Allow your imagination to wonder for a couple of minutes. How would you feel if, instead of going to the hospital to get checked out, you would solve all your doctor’s visits through Skype?
The idea is quite sci-fi, we have to admit, but the broad concept behind the idea isn’t all that crazy. What would it truly be like if, instead of having to get up, dressed, drive to the hospital and wait for someone to examine you, you would simply type in your symptoms in a virtual consultation box and await a private, Skype call with a physician ready to attend to your needs?
Mentalities have been shifting for the past 20 years. Instant messaging, non-stop phone calls and video calling have become part of our day to day lives, so it’s fairly understandable that they would slowly fall through the cracks and become part of the healthcare system.
Routine ailments, for instance, are easily solved via video consultations. Patients communicate their grievances, enter their credit card number and receive a prescription for their sinus infection or persistent cough.
Telemedicine isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been around for ages, especially in the case of patients located in remote areas. The only difference is that patients don’t necessarily have to be in a clinic or a hospital for their videoconference. They can use smartphones, tablets or laptops to convey their symptoms and receive the care they require.
Of course, conservative minds will always resist such unorthodox ideas and there may be merit behind the fear that telemedicine isn’t capable of delivering the same quality of care that a normal doctor’s appointment would. Many physicians warn that patients are facing a higher likelihood of being misdiagnosed when examined via video conference.
Medicare, for instance, has decided to limit reimbursements for such telemedicine services, believing that they could increase costs if they were to expand.
Though several states have embraced the idea of telemedicine and video-conference doctor’s visits, other, more conservative ones, such as Texas, are attempting to limit the growth of virtual medicine. The essential question, however, is not whether telemedicine will help reduce costs, but whether it can be a valid improvement to the healthcare system.
Photo credits: 1