What Is Telemedicine and How Does It Work
You wake up one morning to sniffles and a high temperature. Dragging yourself out of bed, you begin to make your sluggish way to the clinic.
Travelling makes you feel even worse, and when you finally reach the queue seems to never end, and the cacophony of people coughing and sniffling around you builds.
If only there was a way to visit the doctors without being in close proximity to the sickly crowds, the glacial waiting times and the travelling…
Welcome to telemedicine.
Telemedicine platforms have seen a meteoric rise due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with more and more people feeling comfortable meeting and consulting their doctors over their smartphones or laptops rather than the traditional way of going down to the clinic or hospital for a medical appointment.
What Is Telemedicine?
So what exactly is telemedicine?
It is most commonly described as the use of communication technology to connect individuals to their doctors who can provide them with the healthcare services they need. With the advancements in technology and video conferencing platforms, like Zoom and Google Hangouts, rising in prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic, the traditional doctor-patient relationship no longer needs to be confined to a physical visit to the clinic.
This is not only beneficial for individuals with reduced mobility, but it also makes booking and attending doctor consultations more convenient for everyone as it diminishes the need to physically travel from home to either a hospital or clinic and also allows for more flexibility when it comes to scheduling appointments.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
There are currently a whole host of telemedicine platforms available to the masses, either set up by private healthcare providers or insurance companies, which can offer doctor consultations, prescription of medications and provide medical certificates to patients.
Should you have access to a reliable internet connection and have either a computer or a smartphone on hand, you will be able to utilise telemedicine as a viable way to consult a doctor.
For most telemedicine platforms, you will first need to sign up and do up an application that will have you list out your medical history. After signing up, you will most likely have to answer some questions about your current medical issue so that you can be referred to an appropriate doctor who can diagnose and treat the medical condition.
The consultation will take place over a video conference call either on your computer or smartphone where the doctor can assess and diagnose your medical condition. After doing so, they can prescribe and get the medication you need delivered. They can also provide you with an electronic medical certificate should you need it.
Who Is Telemedicine For?
While telemedicine makes it convenient to consult with your doctor, it is not always suitable for every case. By providing healthcare services through video conferencing calls, doctors can be limited with how accurately they can diagnose and treat complex health conditions through an electronic device. For example, patients with health conditions that require extensive laboratory testing like hypothyroidism or anemia are advised not to use telemedicine consultations, and should instead meet their doctor face-to-face. Telemedicine consultations are also not suitable for emergency situations like heart attacks, strokes or broken bones. Health conditions that require immediate medical attention should be done in person at a clinic or a hospital.
Telemedicine is best suited for simple medical conditions or for follow-up consultations with your doctor. For example, should you have caught the common cold, flu, sore throat or other common health issues, these are best addressed using telemedicine as you do not need to travel down to a clinic to get a diagnosis, and can get prescription medication delivered directly to you.
How To Check The Legitimacy Of A Telemedicine Platform
To ensure your safety and to avoid cases of medical negligence or malpractice from occurring, it is important that before you engage with a telemedicine platform and share private medical information, you check that they are a legitimate healthcare provider that has been registered with your country’s health department.
Telemedicine platforms are legally obligated to ensure that the doctors they engage to provide consultations are competent and qualified to do so. Before engaging with the telemedicine platform, check that the doctors they have on staff are listed on the registered licenced practitioners in your country.
Telemedicine can be a convenient way for individuals to get the medical care they need at their convenience without having to travel down to a clinic or a hospital. However, telemedicine will not replace the need for face-to-face consultation as there are still many instances where telemedicine consultations will not be suitable (such as emergency situations and for complex health conditions that require extensive laboratory testing). It is also important that the patient ensure the telemedicine platform they are looking to engage with is legitimate and registered with the country’s health department as a healthcare provider to avoid cases of medical malpractice or negligence.
Jules Loke is a Content Writer for Noah and Zoey, a digital health clinic for men and women alike in Singapore.