This article “wowed” me and at the same time made me feel quite distressed in reference to our healthcare system. Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones that can spend 1 hour with a patient and really get a sense of how their symptoms are affecting their family, work, kids, finances, and relationships.
Health + care is more then just getting tests done and treating symptoms or disease. It’s about developing a relationship with someone who really listens to you and can give you sound health advice.
Here are some situations where telemedicine won’t work:
I can watch a child’s behavior in an exam room and see how he or she responds to me, plays with toys, or reacts to his/her parent(s).
I am with patient’s when they are crying, emotionally distraught or just need a hug. This requires being present and empathetic.
When a patient sees me to identify and treat a rash, I usually perform an exam that involves feeling lymph nodes or checking their pulses to determine if the rash is systemic and whether this patient needs further testing.
A patient may have pain between his/her shoulder blades, but it’s not unless I perform an abdominal exam that I can determine that the pain is most likely due to gallstones versus a muscle strain.
These are all reasons why face-to-face contact with patents needs to continue to offer the best quality healthcare.
These are instances where telemedicine works:
Follow up care does not always need a visit or exam, unless you need to listen to someone’s lungs or make sure a breast lump is smaller in size.
I triage calls on the weekends and determine whether someone really needs to go to the ER or whether to avoid a thousand dollar visit and safely manage symptoms until they see their doctor on Monday. Having access to more information would be helpful.
Telemedicine would be advantageous for people in rural areas that live far from local health clinics. I can see it’s usefulness for people that are out of the country (like the person in the article).
But lets not get away from the human contact of medicine and health care. It’s hard enough for me to speak to another person on the phone at my bank without going through a barrage of menu options. I know it’s about saving money and laying off people since a machine can give you most of the information you need. But providing medical advice is different than trying to get your correct balance.
Lets not take the “art” of medicine/nursing away from patients. All of us are patients at some time or another. Health practitioners use their intuition to help them make the best decisions.
There is no such thing as “on-line care”. Caring is not just about attending to ones needs. It’s about being present and focused on what people have to say and really listening. That listening is not through a computer screen, but through human touch and the exchange of energy.
Telemedicine may have its place, but lets be careful to avoid replacing it with the relationship you have with your health care provider.