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  • Writer's pictureZaid Shehryar and Dalevyon Knight

Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare or a Prescription for Disaster?

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Telemedicine has emerged as a pioneering force in the medical community, with those in

support touting it as the next frontier of healthcare. With home-based medical consultations and

treatments now a reality, it is no surprise that this technological marvel has elicited widespread

response globally. Yet, in spite of this worldwide excitement it has garnered, we are left

wondering: is telemedicine truly as impressive as it is made out to be?

Telemedicine, in its inception, has established itself as a formidable presence in the

healthcare landscape, presenting a practical answer to the escalating requirement for medical

services from individuals worldwide. Through it, medical appointments are no longer a dreaded

chore, but rather a streamlined and convenient encounter. The days of interminable clinic waits,

missed work days, and long-distance trips for routine prescriptions are over. Telemedicine

provides an innovative approach to receive medical treatment, bringing the power of medical

therapy to your fingertips with just the touch of a button.

As noted by Sarah Heath, a reporter for Xtelligent Healthcare, "nearly half (53% of

patients) who reported limited access to healthcare said they had left an appointment because the

wait was too long." However, with telemedicine, individuals are able to seamlessly connect with

healthcare professionals in mere seconds, both from the comfort of their home or even on the go,

all with just a smartphone or computer as their gateway to healthcare’s finest.

On the other hand, this progressive marvel isn’t a luxury for city dwellers. It is also a beacon of hope for those situated in remote and financially-strained regions, allowing them to access specialized

medical attention that was previously out of bounds. This is notably beneficial for the elderly and

disabled, people who experience difficulties in getting to a medical center. Virtual consultations

offer a more efficient healthcare experience, eliminating drawn-out wait periods and allowing for

more patient visits in less time.

Despite its undeniable benefits and convenience, however, telemedicine also faces

significant hurdles that threaten to compromise its effectiveness. For one, some medical

procedures are simply beyond the realm of remote visits. For instance, procedures such as

imaging tests and blood work require a physical presence that telemedicine just cannot replicate.

Likewise, some diagnoses necessitate a more intimate examination, as healthcare professionals

cannot always rely on verbal accounts. With telemedicine being heavily reliant on individual

patients, how can we ensure that patients are receiving an accurate diagnosis without any

physical examinations?

Similarly, the electronic transmission of public health data also sparks serious security

concerns. Telemedicine tech can spy on patients, asserting control of personal data through

monitoring at-home activities and family interactions. This information can then be stored by the

app manufacturer and later traded to outside parties, paving the way for medical deceit. In

accordance with mHealth Intelligence, "52% of telehealth providers surveyed reported

having patients who refused a virtual visit citing mistrust in technology or concerns about

privacy and data safety." However, the safety of healthcare extends far beyond the patients, with

clinicians also being left wary about the security of virtual visits. Based on research conducted

by mHealth Intelligence, "81% stated that they are uncertain about how patient data will be

used and shared from virtual sessions." Thus, in order for this revolutionary technology to truly

serve every person, we must make a concerted effort to protect the privacy and security of all

who use it.

Despite its ability to chart a new course for healthcare, telemedicine is plagued by some

insurance companies that refuse to fully embrace its scope. Despite the recent growth in

telehealth services covered by Medicare and other healthcare providers, there are still limitations

placed on the full coverage of telemedicine. Pursuant to the United States Government

Accountability Office, some insurance companies only provide coverage under “limited

circumstances,” such as when in-person is not readily accessible due to location constraints. This

raises the question - who determines the threshold that qualifies for insurance companies to

provide telemedicine coverage? Due to a lack of this universal coverage system for telemedicine,

not everyone is able to bask in its rich benefits.

Although there is much left to be done in the growing industry of telehealth, telemedicine

offers a pragmatic solution to age-old challenges in healthcare. As with all innovation,

telemedicine services must be wielded with caution to ensure its benefits are felt by all. As

Thomas Edison eloquently stated, "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will

instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of

disease." Telemedicine not only serves these purposes, but also overcomes barriers and inequities,

offering comprehensive patient care from the comfort of home. In spite of its disadvantages,

telemedicine is poised to change the face of medical care forever. The future is here, and it is

only one video call away.

Zaid Shehryar is a writer and researcher from Brooklyn, New York. His work has been featured in TeenInk's National Magazine, the International Journal Research of Oncology, the International Neuropsychiatric Disease Journal, and the Curieux Academic Journal, along with other research conferences (HOSA, NYC ISEF, NYC Terra STEM Fair, NYS Statewide Annual Symposium, Downstate Medical Research Symposium). He is also the author of Brainstorming for the Planet: Exploring the Neurobiology of Climate Change, which is set to publish later this year. He hopes you have a wonderful day!

Dalevyon Knight is a researcher from Fort Myers, Florida, and is an incoming freshman at Harvard College. As he embarks on his academic journey in college, he hopes to explore genetic research, uncovering new ways to harness its power for the greater good. Driven by the belief that the true value of genetic research lies in its potential to impact communities around the world, his ambitions lie far beyond the lab. When Dalevyon isn't busy nerding out in the lab, you will find him at his school's HOSA club, where he leads the charge as President.

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