Any thoughts on meeting a doctor on Zoom?
Hi there, and welcome back to Ask Trish! I hope you’re all having a good week, and that the start of April is treating you well.
Thank you so much to this week’s question-er for the fantastic question and for raising such a timely, interesting topic. Indeed, meeting a physician (or generally, receiving healthcare) online has become increasingly common, particularly post COVID-19. As you all know, during the pandemic, it was challenging to go anywhere, even a doctor’s office (especially when hospitals were already tasked with assisting patients with COVID-19) – and so digital healthcare, or, as it’s more commonly referred to, telehealth, became much more popular. It’s remained popular, though, and indeed, lots of folks do everything from speak to their general physician to regularly receive therapy online.
As someone who is not a doctor or licensed physician, I can’t help you assess whether telehealth is right for you. If you’re considering telehealth, I’d encourage you to speak with your doctor. With that said, in this week’s post, I will chat at a high level about the digital aspects of telehealth, including the myriad ways digital technologies can enable healthcare, what some folks see as the potential pros of telehealth, and what other folks see as the potential cons of telehealth. I hope this gives you a very basic intro to this topic – and a launching pad off of which to have more detailed conversations about the healthcare side of things with your doctor.
Sound good? Let’s get into it:
First and foremost, let’s talk about the many ways digital technologies can support healthcare today. You highlighted one great application in your question – digital technologies, especially video conferencing platforms (like Zoom), can enable patients to remotely access care. But believe it or not, digital technologies can do so much more! They also enable patients to remotely access and manage information about their health, including information about recent visits with a doctor or tests taken. (Often, you can do this via a “Patient Portal.”) Digital technologies also allow medical providers to more easily speak to one another, which can enable valuable information-sharing. Digital technologies also underlie a number of patient health tools. This includes wearable devices that can record information about everything from your heart rate to your blood sugar (and then remotely share that information with your doctor, whether for general tracking, or to detect a potential emergency situation). These tools also include personal healthcare apps, which can help patients schedule reminders to take medicines, store key personal health information, and track physical activity (among many, many uses). And that’s not even considering how emerging technologies, like AI, might be applied in the digital realm to do everything from predict/detect disease to predict what care treatments might be best for a patient.
Okay – so it’s clear that digital technologies have a lot to offer, healthcare-wise. But what are the tangible benefits to patients? For instance, what are the pros of, as you asked, meeting with a doctor over Zoom? Telehealth advocates like to highlight a number of benefits. Flexibility is a big one – telehealth makes it much easier for folks that live in remote areas (far from major hospitals or doctor’s offices) or folks with busy schedules to access the care that they need. They can do so around their schedule – and you can imagine that that’ll make them more likely to access the care. Comfort is also huge – you can access this care right from the comfort of your own home! There are also advantages for providers, advocates say. Telehealth can theoretically be more efficient, which can allow providers to spend more time with each patient or see more patients. And that, of course, is a great thing.
If you’re an Ask Trish regular, you know what’s coming next…the cons. (Indeed, part of being a critical digital citizen is acknowledging that where there are benefits, there are usually potential drawbacks, too.) Telehealth critics (or at least folks that are more cautious about it) note that there are components of healthcare that (at least today) can’t be replicated in a virtual setting. For instance, it can arguably be harder to build trust/a personal relationship with your doctor over Zoom (though some folks might push back on that!). Others note that the rapid uptake of healthcare-focused digital technologies has led to a preponderance of personal, sensitive health data being shared with private companies or individuals outside of a patient’s health system. Often, patients don’t know that their data is being shared in this way, which is, of course, a serious concern. To that end, there are lots of folks currently thinking about how to leverage these technologies while still safeguarding patient data. It’s a tricky challenge, with no easy solutions.
And that’s digital healthcare, in a nutshell! Thank you all so much for reading this post. I hope you found this a helpful intro to the digital aspects of digital healthcare. As I mentioned, if you’d like to learn more about the healthcare side of things, I’d strongly encourage you to reach out to your physician. Best of luck on your healthcare journey! And in the meantime…do me a huge favor, and keep the #AskTrish conversation going by sharing any Internet-related questions, thoughts, or perspectives here. Your question just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post! Remember, anything goes – you might be pondering a new filter on a social media app, wondering about a technology that recently caught your eye, or struggling with a serious digital challenge. No matter the topic, know that I’m here for you! Whatever’s on your mind, I hope Ask Trish can be a helpful, empowering resource for you as you navigate the digital world. 💙
Have a great week,