The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine in Rheumatology.

In the last 20 years, technological advancements opened the door to telemedicine and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its implementation in many areas of medicine, including in rheumatology.

Telemedicine attempts to improve access to healthcare, particularly for chronic disease patients that require constant monitoring to help manage their conditions.

Telemedicine allows physicians to monitor disease progression, adapt therapies, and offer therapeutic education to patients in a convenient and safe manner. Still, some limitations remain, and therefore, telehealth may not be the best option for all patients.

The Pros of Telemedicine in Rheumatology.

Let us explore the benefits of telemedicine visits.

They are Convenient for Patients

Patients with rheumatic diseases often experience severe fatigue, and many have limited mobility, making in-person doctor visits a challenge.

Telemedicine offers a convenient way for patients to maintain communication with their healthcare providers from the comfort of their homes.

They Help Reduce Appointment Cancelations and Rescheduling

It’s not uncommon for chronic disease patients to cancel their medical appointments when they are experiencing a “bad day” or when they don’t have anyone to accompany them to the doctor’s office.

Having the option to speak to their doctors without enduring the sometimes exhausting and stressful trip to the doctor’s office is viewed as one of the most positive aspects of telemedicine.

It Helps Protect Immunocompromised Patients

Individuals with compromised immune systems constantly worry about potential germ and viral exposure when going to their medical appointments.

Telemedicine visits allow these patients to receive personalized care while minimizing their risk of infection from bacteria and viruses.

The Cons of Telemedicine in Rheumatology

Here are some of the limitations of e-health consultations.

Not as Effective in Diagnosing Or Assessing a Condition

Rheumatology relies heavily on visual and tactile exams. During a telemedicine consultation, patients may not be able to describe their joint inflammation accurately, making it difficult for physicians to assess the disease progression.

Not Recommended for Certain Conditions or In Case of an Emergency

While telemedicine visits provide improved outcomes for patients who are stable in their therapies, prolonged remote disease management is not as effective for patients with active diseases or those who have difficulty managing their symptoms.

Additionally, patients who experience new or worsening symptoms need to see a doctor for an in-person medical evaluation.

Limited Access to Technologies

There is a genuine concern regarding patient access to e-health technologies. For example, in a survey study,  17% of participating physicians estimated that close to 25% of their patients did not have access to telemedicine video technology.

Elderly patients can also find the use of this technology confusing and may require assistance from others to use it.

Although limitations exist, telemedicine is changing the way physicians monitor chronic diseases, and it may be an ally in helping to improve outcomes and patient quality of life.

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