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Telemedicine vs. Traditional Healthcare: Pros and Cons

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Health Writer | Medical Researcher
Telemedicine vs. Traditional Healthcare: Pros and Cons

There are two ways to access medical care: telemedicine vs traditional healthcare. What are the benefits and differences between the two ways, and which is better?

Up until recently, the traditional healthcare approach has been the most common and standard way of getting healthcare services. This may be because there is no other way for patients and medical practitioners to interact. But today, the advancement in the use of technology has brought about a change in healthcare delivery, introducing telemedicine as another way of providing medical services.

A 2023 study revealed that the use of telemedicine increased in popularity when social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic made seeing a doctor in person more difficult. Some people still doubt the effectiveness of this remote way of providing healthcare, and they find it difficult to accept its use.

This article explains the advantages and differences between telemedicine and traditional healthcare. This can help you make an informed decision on which method to choose.

What is Telemedicine?

telemedicine vs. traditional healthcare

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is a method of providing medical services remotely using digital communication tools like phones and computers. It mostly involves the use of phone calls, video calls, phone messaging, and emails to diagnose and treat patients.

Telemedicine can be used successfully in treating a range of medical conditions, so long as the patient gives a qualified physician clear details of their symptoms. It is beneficial especially in situations where the patient is unable to attend a healthcare facility in person or must practise physical distancing. It can be used for:

  • Diagnosing and treating minor illnesses, such as a cold or cough
  • Determining if a patient needs in-person treatment
  • Check-ups after you’ve already seen your doctor
  • An examination of easy-to-see areas, like your skin and eyes
  • Counselling and other mental health therapies
  • Writing or renewing prescriptions
  • Monitoring chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma

The Advantages of Telemedicine

telemedicine vs. traditional healthcare

The following are the benefits and advantages of telemedicine:

  • It is convenient. Telemedicine enables you to easily consult your doctor and receive diagnosis, treatment, and advice remotely from the comfort of your home or office.
  • It saves time and money. It is easy to fit a virtual consultation into your busy schedule without taking time off work, and the need to drive long distances and wait for some time to see a doctor is minimized. It is also less expensive, as you don’t have to spend on transportation or gas.
  • Increases access to medical care services. Telemedicine provides global access to medical services. It gives patients who have limited access to standard healthcare facilities, either because of their location or mobility problems, the opportunity to connect with specialists and access quality medical care without worrying about travel distance and expenses.
  • Timely Interventions. With telemedicine, patients can receive medical advice and treatments as soon as possible without visiting the healthcare facility in person.
  • It is safer: Telemedicine minimizes the risk of spreading infectious diseases to other patients and healthcare providers.
  • Additional income for the practitioners. Telemedicine may increase the income earned by medical practitioners since they can now attend to more patients.
  • It helps reduce the burden on healthcare facilities. A lot of people who walk into healthcare facilities are there for check-ups. Since telemedicine is effective for follow-up care, the number of people sitting in waiting rooms to see doctors is reduced.
  • The absence of physical examinations may make it more difficult for medical professionals to provide a comprehensive or accurate diagnosis for some medical conditions.
  • Lack of access to digital technology: people with no digital device or unreliable internet may not be able to use telemedical services.

Traditional healthcare

telemedicine vs. traditional healthcare

Traditional healthcare, also known as in-person care, is the traditional method of consulting and receiving treatment. It involves face-to-face interaction between medical practitioners and their patients in a healthcare facility.

It is the foundation of healthcare delivery that involves direct physical examinations, diagnostic tests, and other clinical procedures such as surgeries, X-rays, and imaging tests. To get medical service through the traditional healthcare approach, you have to travel in person to the hospital or facility.

Traditional healthcare is best used for:

  • Life-threatening situations that require urgent medical attention
  • When you are consulting with a new doctor for the first time,.
  • When the medical condition requires a physical examination and a diagnostic test such as blood tests, X-rays, and other imaging tests.

Advantages of traditional healthcare

Traditional healthcare offers unique benefits that you can’t get from telemedicine.

Below are key points about what makes in-person care invaluable:

  • Physical Examination: Some medical conditions require a physical examination and the use of diagnostic tools that telemedicine can’t provide. Visiting the hospital in person allows medical practitioners to conduct thorough physical examinations, often crucial for diagnosis.
  • Personal Connection. Having a face-to-face discussion promotes a close interpersonal relationship between patients and doctors. This can have a positive impact on the patient’s well-being.
  • Emergency Care: Traditional healthcare is irreplaceable when it comes to handling life-threatening emergencies.

What are the disadvantages of traditional healthcare?

The downsides of the traditional healthcare approach are:

  • Longer waiting periods: Because of the number of people waiting to see the doctor in the traditional healthcare system. Patients have to wait longer to see the doctor.
  • Increased risk of infections: the chance of spreading or getting infected while visiting a healthcare facility is high. This may be because many people walk into the hospital with different diseases, some of which are infectious. Patients with weakened immune systems can easily get infected if they are exposed to infectious diseases in healthcare facilities.
  • Additional expenses: Patients may incur additional costs for missed work hours, fueling their cars, or transportation fares.

Telemedicine vs. Traditional Healthcare: Pros and Cons

telemedicine vs. traditional healthcare

 The following are the differences between telemedicine and traditional healthcare: 

  1. Accessibility

Telemedicine breaks geographical barriers as it gives individuals from any location easy access to medical care.

Traditional healthcare: However, geographical location and mobility problems can limit access to medical facilities since physical presence is required.

2. Risk of infection

Telemedicine: is safer, and the risk of catching or spreading infectious disease is reduced.

Traditional healthcare: The risk of infection is high.

3. Time savings

Telemedicine: virtual consultation often starts at a scheduled time. This makes the service quicker and takes only a short time.

Traditional healthcare: It takes a longer waiting period before you can see a doctor.

4. Convenience

Telemedicine: Consultation can be done in the comfort of your home, with no need to travel.

Traditional healthcare: travelling and waiting to see a doctor can be inconvenient, especially for those residing a long distance away from the facility, homebodies, and those who need regular checkups.

5. Physical Examination

Telemedicine: Physical examination is not carried out as all interactions take place remotely.

Traditional healthcare: thorough physical exams, which help in diagnosing the condition more accurately.

6. Communication and interpersonal relationships

Telemedicine: makes it harder for patients and practitioners to build a close bond.

Traditional healthcare: promotes a closer relationship between the patient and the practitioner. This makes it easier for patients to communicate and convey symptoms or concerns to their doctor.

7. Emergency Services

Telemedicine: not suitable for critical or life-threatening situations.

Traditional healthcare: equipped to handle emergencies and offer immediate treatment

8. Cost implication

Telemedicine: Maybe less expensive, as you don’t have to take time off work or spend extra money to transport to a healthcare facility.

Traditional healthcare: aside from being more time-consuming, you may have to spend additional money on transportation, gas, and maybe a babysitter or a daycare.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Why do patients prefer telehealth?

Patients prefer telemedicine because it offers a flexible schedule, is convenient, saves time, eliminates the need to travel to receive care, and provides flexible scheduling, fostering a patient-centric experience.

2. Is telemedicine clinically effective?

When compared to traditional healthcare services delivery,  a 2023 study has revealed that telemedicine is as clinically effective as traditional healthcare.

3. How much does telehealth cost?

The costs of telemedicine vary depending on provider fees, service type, and insurance coverage.

4. Who can benefit the most from telemedicine?

Although everyone can benefit from telemedicine, the people who may benefit the most from telemedicine are

  • People living in rural areas who have limited access to medical facilities
  • People with disabilities
  • People with substance use disorders and/or mental health issues
  • The elderly
  • Children

5. How can one access telehealth services?

Accessing telemedicine services can be done through specific providers or telemedicine apps and websites built to accommodate them. This app and website may use different technologies, like:

  • Email
  • Text
  • Video chats
  • Phone calls

Conclusion

The physical presence of medical practitioners, financial implications, convenience and accessibility, suitability in times of emergency, and diagnostic limitations are some of the features that differentiate telemedicine from traditional healthcare.

Each of these approaches has its advantages and disadvantages. While traditional healthcare offers the benefit of physical examinations and urgent treatment in an emergency case, telemedicine offers convenience, lower expenses, and reduced waiting times for regular consultations.

Making a decision on which healthcare approach to use depends on your individual preference, the nature of the medical problem, and your location.

Convenience and easy access to quality health care are important for a happy and healthy life. And you can get both benefits and more on Komplete Care.  Book an appointment with any of the doctors today to enjoy specialist care!

References

Haleem Abid et al. (2022). Telemedicine for healthcare: Capabilities, features, barriers, and applications

Andrews Michelle, 2023. Virtual or in person: Which kind of doctor’s visit is better, and when it matters

Rural Health Information Hub, n.d.  Specific Rural Populations that May Benefit from Telehealth

Katrina Eresman, (2023). Benefits of Telehealth: The Pros and Cons for Patients

Wolfson Bernard J., (2020). Telemedicine or In-Person Visit? Pros and Cons.

Centaine L Snoswell et al. (2023). The clinical effectiveness of telehealth: A systematic review of meta-analyses from 2010 to 2019

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Blessing Amaka

Ms. Blessing is a health writer and freelance researcher with special interest in healthcare and lifestyle improvements.

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