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article imageDownsides of telehealth could limit further growth

By Tim Sandle     Jul 18, 2020 in Health
The use of telehealth has risen during the COVID-19 crisis and this adds to the provision of services and those who champion this form of healthcare (such as boosting schedule adherence). However, there remain issues that need to be addressed.
Telehealth has various constellations of which one is video consultations. This form of consultation has been highly prioritized tin many countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic, either with more people seeking advice and through medical practices seeking to discourage people from attending premises directly.
While effective, there are some critiques of telehealth. These highlight some weakness rather than arguing that telehealth has no role at all. Some of these weakness, together with recent literature, are discussed below.
While telehealth is universally cheaper than face-to-face discussions with physicians (by around 50 percent), the expansion in telehealth to previously unmet needs creates a new costs for health services. Furthermore, some analysts argue that the cost savings promised by telehealth are not as great as previously thought once the full cost of supply and medical practitioner costs are factored in.
READ MORE: Telehealth booms amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Low take-up
While telehealth is expanding, there are some analysts who see this expansion as largely based on established patient-doctor relationships. In other words, many patients who only wish to engage with an established medical professional; hence, the telehealth set-up is usually best placed in an already established relation between patient and clinician.
Getting it wrong
A further concern relates to when so-called “no touch” medicine gets things wrong. At times the process can be risky, misleading and it can generate wrong diagnostics and therapies. Data is patchy about the extent to misdiagnosis. This issue occurs with in-person health care as well as with digital health. Some analysts are concerned that the risks increase with telehealth. This may arise, for instance, where there is no clear standard of care established or where the quality is uneven between one provider and the next. From the health economics perspective, misdiagnosis can pass on costs to mainstream healthcare and hence increase the overall costs to the general health care system as well as presenting a danger to patients.
As well as a misdiagnosis leading to disease progression or even worsened conditions for the patient, medical practitioners could face greater legal exposure. A medical malpractice suit could hold a negligent clinician liable for their wrongdoings, helping a patient recover compensation for their injuries and losses.
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