Telemedicine during the pandemic: its benefits and limitations

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Carolina Martins Coelho, sixth period medical student at Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos- UNICEPLAC, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In the past few months the world has seen itself living in a pandemic, in which isolation and lockdown measures have been adopted in several countries. With that, commerce was closed, the streets were empty, clinics and several hospitals focused only on the Coronavirus and the “normal life” in which everyone lived, took another direction.

One of the solutions to meet the medical needs of that time was to give more value to medicine at a distance. Telemedicine (from the Greek τελε, distance) defines the set of technologies and applications that allow remote medical actions to be carried out. This practice has brought a great discussion both in relation to its real benefits and limitations.

One of the most important benefits is the sharing of information and assistance with remote treatment. With the advancement of technology, it is believed that telemedicine has brought an ease in the exchange of information, agility and comfort in service, a significant reduction in costs, among others. Assuming that telemedicine does not replace face-to-face medical consultation and that in this time of necessary social isolation, distance guidance becomes a necessity for doctors and patients. First, distance care prevents patients from having to leave isolation to seek health services and these, in cases that are closed, can continue to be done normally. In this way, people are preserved from the possibilities of contamination in public transport and in the service centers themselves. In addition, those who have been infected or in suspected cases may remain in quarantine and decrease the circulation of the virus. Another positive point of telemedicine in relation to the pandemic is the preservation of health professionals, since there is a lack of PPE, so doctors can transmit guidelines and monitor patients without coming into physical contact with them, remaining safe. In addition, remote care can help to reduce pressure on health systems, leaving clinics and hospitals free for those who really need face-to-face care.

It is known that the great limitation for this practice in the health area is the conservative culture, with uncertainties and fears of not receiving accurate diagnoses and treatments due to the substitution of face-to-face contact with the virtual one, generating resistance to this change. In addition, another factor says about adapting to new technologies and adequate and efficient training for the task. Finally, there may be an extrapolation of the limit between one contact and another, requiring the doctor himself to establish limits for virtual care, always maintaining the ethics and quality of care.

It is possible that new modalities of medical action, where telemedicine is being applied, will emerge with great speed in the coming years, especially now after the pandemic. With the evolution of the media, it is natural that the contact between the doctor and the patient can be made at a distance, since it has the same effectiveness as the traditional method and following the rules of the Ethics Committee.

References:

  1. TAVARES, Lyz. A telemedicina para o mundo.Telemedicina Conexa.c2019. Disponível em: <https://blog.conexasaude.com.br/telemedicina-no-mundo/>. Acesso em 22 de jul de 2020.
  2. Telemedicina em tempos de Covid-19. Sociedade Brasileira de Endocrinologia e Metabologia. 20 de abr de 2020.Disponível em: < https://www.endocrino.org.br/telemedicina-em-tempos-de-covid-19/>.Acesso em 22 de jul de 2020.

About the author

Carolina Martins Coelho, sixth period medical student at Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos- UNICEPLAC. Constantly searching for knowledge in the medical field, interested in films,
documentaries, books, travel and music, involved in volunteer work,
academic activities such as congresses and symposia organization, the
board of academic leagues and the preparation of academic articles. She
always seeks to reconcile academic and personal life and to be learning more every day to be a good professional in the future.

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