Health conditions Medicare Your Coverage Options

Benefits and risks of telemedicine

Written by Diane Archer

Telemedicine allows doctors to remotely assess the conditions of patients via telephone or video. Medicare covers some telemedicine services, both real-time audio and video, for some conditions in certain situations. If you don’t have Medicare, check with your commercial insurer about the coverage available through your plan.

What are the benefits of telemedicine? There’s no denying that telemedicine is convenient, saves time and generally saves money. Through telemedicine, you can see a doctor and get a prescription with ease, even if you live in a rural community or a community with few doctors. Moreover, you don’t generally have to wait for an appointment. You also don’t have to leave your home or leave work to get a diagnosis.

Does telemedicine improve health outcomes? According to Cochrane, based on the research to date, the jury’s still out on the benefits and risks of telemedicine. A series of studies show overall patient satisfaction. But, the evidence is still scant on the clinical benefits of telemedicine or the effects of telemedicine on health outcomes.

One analysis of 80 reviews of telemedicine revealed that 21 reviews found telemedicine effective, 18 reviews found telemedicine “promising but incomplete,” and others still found that the evidence was still limited and not consistent.

What are the risks of telemedicine? It can be difficult for doctors to evaluate patients remotely. Doctors get a better sense of patients’ conditions in person, through a physical evaluation. So, there is a real likelihood of misdiagnosis with telemedicine.

While Medicare only covers limited home care services, it is now in the midst of a demonstration project that pays for doctors and nurse practitioners to make house calls. That could be a better option than telemedicine.


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