1.       What is it?

Telemedicine, aka Telehealth is formally defined by the American Telemedicine Association as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communication to improve a patient’s clinical health status.”

2.       How common is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is more common than you may think. According to the Wall Street Journal, More than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely last year, and this number is expected to grow by 30% this year!

Telemedicine is most commonly associated with doctors conducting patient visits via phone, email, and webcam. But it doesn’t strictly apply to doctor-patient visits: The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors also consult with each other electronically, “sometimes to make split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes.” Patients are also now using high-tech devices that relay vital signs of their existing conditions to their doctors, making it possible to manage chronic conditions at home.

3.       What are Pros and Cons of telemedicine?

According to Harris Poll Online, of 2,033 adults surveyed about telemedicine, the top two concerns of the practice were that insurance would not cover the service, and that personal data would not be secure. These two concerns are certainly realistic drawbacks to telemedicine, especially in these early stages of the practice.

In the same study, the top 2 benefits of telemedicine were thought to be convenience and potential cost savings. Being able to have a visit with your doctor from the comfort of your own home, while saving money? This is definitely one of the most appealing things about telemedicine as far as patients are concerned.

4.       Is telemedicine the future of healthcare?

This may certainly be true, but despite the rapid growth of telemedicine, there are real challenges it faces. For one, each state has different rules and regulations regarding telemedicine. Also, the scope of care thought to be appropriate for telemedicine varies across all physicians.  One of the more serious challenges is the potential of lower quality of visits when compared to in-person doctor visits.

5.       Is telemedicine Safe?

With a practice still relatively new to the world of healthcare, you might be wondering if it’s safe. Fortunately organizations such as the American Telemedicine Association have standards, guidelines, and best practices in place that serve to regulate the responsible practice of telemedicine by healthcare providers. You can read more about them here.