The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has compelled lockdown orders to be issued in nearly every jurisdiction, has brought to light how certain approaches, such as telemedicine, need to play a bigger role in the way preventive medicine is provided to populations. However, the widespread adoption of telemedicine is still far from becoming a reality due to the numerous hurdles which need to be addressed. We highlight some of those obstacles.
Lack of Reimbursements
Health insurance makes the cost of getting needed care affordable, and therein lies one of the problems preventing telemedicine from taking root on a bigger scale. Most health insurance companies will only reimburse the costs incurred on a select list of virtual medical procedures, and this has prevented a lot of people from opting for a virtual appointment with their primary healthcare provider.
Policymakers, advocates and all stakeholders need to exert pressure on insurance companies so that they can evolve and start recognizing telemedicine as no different from an in-person visit to the doctor.
Skepticism About Virtual Diagnoses
Another issue that comes out in surveys conducted among patients is that a lot of them don’t trust the diagnosis made during a virtual consultation. Nearly half of the patients polled reported that they would trust a face-to-face diagnosis more than one given during a video-appointment.
This finding draws attention to the fact that patients aren’t used to telemedicine, and it highlights how much work needs to be done to sensitize patients about the similarities between an in-person appointment and a virtual one. Doctors, health insurers and policymakers have a role to play in shifting mindsets regarding this issue given that telemedicine offers lots of cost benefits and other associated advantages (avoiding exposure to infections by staying at home, for example).
Personal and Professional-Grade Infrastructure is Critical
PEW research indicates that at least 64% of all Americans own a smartphone. This is a great start for healthcare providers looking to switch to telemedicine since these smartphones are video-enabled.
However, these generic virtual meeting apps may not be sufficient to address the specific needs of different specialties in medicine. For example, cosmetic dentists may need a more accurate platform through which smile photos can be taken by a patient before a recommendation of a needed procedure is made.
It is therefore necessary to invest in professional-grade telemedicine infrastructure so that the specific needs of the sector are addressed while providing virtual services. For example, the development of dedicated telemedicine kiosks can go a long way in reassuring the public that virtual appointments are a legitimate way to get professional medical help.
It is now commonplace to see people with wearable devices tracking different parameters, such as heart function and blood glucose levels. You can therefore expect to see a lot more artificial intelligence-based solutions from entities like Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI) since telemedicine is here to stay.
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