Technology has had a huge impact on healthcare, an impact that is ongoing. One area where technology is changing the way healthcare is delivered is through telemedicine. This is a relatively new development. It brings a new dimension to healthcare with a range of benefits, but along with these benefits, there are also new challenges and issues raised as well.
Should you adopt the use of telemedicine at your pharmacy? That depends on a number of different factors. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of telemedicine.
Advantages of telepharmacy
Greater convenience and accessibility
When patients can access their care virtually, they can avoid the time and cost of a face-to-face visit. Telepharmacy also makes care accessible for those who live in more remote locations or cannot leave their home or take time off from work.
Technology such as video conferencing, smartphone apps, and online management systems can connect more patients with pharmacists.
Telemedicine enables pharmacists to analyze and monitor patient conditions, as well as store data, all electronically, which help to lower costs, not only for pharmacies but for patients and insurance companies.
Telepharmacy can also bring in more revenue by attracting new patients and reducing the number of no-shows.
Access to specialists
Telehealth enables patients who live in remote areas to access the services of specialists more quickly. These patients generally have more trouble getting to see specialists because there are only about 43 specialists per 100,000 rural residents in the United States.
Greater patient satisfaction
Because patients can access healthcare more easily through telepharmacy, they are more apt to keep their appointments and stick to their treatment schedules, which in the long run improves their health.
Telemedicine also makes it easier for patients to get information when they have questions, check-in with healthcare providers when they notice a health problem, and make follow-up appointments for treatment.
Improved quality of care
Telemedicine improves the quality of care because it enables people to receive treatment more quickly with such initiatives as real time urgent care consultations.
More training and equipment needed
Although telemedicine may be cheaper in the long run, there are substantial costs for equipment and training initially. Pharmacists and other medical staff need to be trained on the systems to make sure they are using them effectively.
The falloff in the continuity of care
Sometimes patients will use on-demand telemedicine services. In these cases, they talk with a random healthcare provider, and this can affect the continuity of care. Moreover, when this happens, the patient’s primary care physician or primary pharmacist may not be able to access the records from these visits and so will not have a complete history of the patient.
Because of this problem, those using telemedicine must use effective data solutions to make sure that patient records are adequately maintained and accessible to all providers.
There is also the possibility of broadband connection problems, which some providers worry will lead to issues with patient management.
Health care laws, reimbursement policies, and privacy protection regulations are lagging with regard to this new technology. Reimbursement for telehealth services still can be a stumbling block for providers.
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