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Embracing Telehealth

Hailey Yeung, Bradbury School, Hong Kong

Since the Covid-19 pandemic seriously affected the medical healthcare system, there has been a significant change of patient care throughout the world. Telehealth has become increasingly popular.

According to the state of Telemedicine survey conducted by Software Advice in 2022, 92 percent of patients say they are more likely to go with a doctor who has a telemedicine service option over one who does not. Additionally, the 2022 Healthcare Business Survey has shown that over half of doctors embraced the development of telehealth.

There are many advantages that come with telehealth. First of all, telehealth improves the convenience of seeking medical services. Going to the doctor can be time consuming and inconvenient. Taking time off work to travel to the doctor’s clinic, only to have to sit in a waiting room for 20 to 30 minutes, followed by a short doctor assessment and then traveling back to home, it is not a pleasant experience at all. This is a deterrent for patients coming to visit their doctors. However, telehealth eliminates nearly all of that time and allows patients to access medical care from their own home, office or any location with internet connection. Besides, it enables patients in rural or remote areas to access medical care without having to travel long distances.

Furthermore, telehealth can improve patients’ outcomes because they are much more likely to make appointments for routine body checkups and preventative care due to the convenience that telehealth offers patients. More advanced types of virtual care, such as the remote digital patient monitoring can further help patients with chronic medical problems by tracking important health data in real time in order to catch problems as soon as they appear. In other words, telehealth can encourage patients to stick to their strict medical care plans. Therefore, telehealth increases patient engagement of their healthcare, which can lead to better health outcomes.

While it is true that we can enjoy several benefits of telehealth, there are also drawbacks that we should not neglect. First and foremost, it is difficult to build and maintain good doctor-patient rapport in an entirely online relationship. Telehealth can be impersonal. If the patient is not familiar with the doctor online, he might be nervous about what type of medical care he will receive from the doctor. It can be difficult to trust a doctor entirely if he has never met in person before. The lack of personal interaction in telehealth service can hurt the experience for patients who need a more personal touch.

Another disadvantage of telehealth is that it limits the physical examination. Telehealth cannot replace the physical examination that is very vital to make an accurate medical diagnosis. If a doctor wants to make an accurate judgement and make a proper management plan, he must examine the patient in person thoroughly by listening to the patient’s heart and chest and palpating the abdomen. No matter how good a webcam can be, an appropriate physical examination can never be conducted virtually.

In conclusion, it is predicted that telehealth will be a promising tool in medical care because of the convenience and better patient outcome. However, the weak doctor-patient relationship and inaccurate physical examination which may happen in telehealth could be the hurdle that is not easy to be avoided. We should consider a hybrid approach. Therefore, we can enjoy the benefits of telehealth and traditional health service.

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