The Role of Telemedicine and E-health Services in Healthcare

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Begum COKMEZ and Cagla ESEN, two second-year medical students at Istanbul Medipol University, Istanbul, Turkey. They are affiliated with 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.

Telemedicine includes the development of healthcare services, the storage of healthcare data, and sharing the data with the patient via telecommunication technologies. This article will discuss the advantages and the obstacles of E-health and telemedicine.

Telemedicine could be used in health practices as well as in healthcare education. Especially when there is a need for consultation, the use of teleconsultation systems provides effortless and quick access to physicians from other hospitals. Using this technology allows the patient to receive more medical attention, which also increases the accuracy of the diagnosis. Another advantage of telemedicine is that the procedures can be done way quicker and more organized. The patient can access the results more quickly and can regularly view the results and other information registered in the system. To give an example, the Turkish Ministry of Health uses the E-health system to provide patients with their radiological examination images, conduct teleconsultation, and allow the patients to view their results. In addition, the necessity to be in the same location as the physicians is no longer needed. As a result, access to physicians has become easier for people living in rural areas. Another advantage of telemedicine is that it decreases the medical costs. It was observed that the waiting time for doctor appointments has also decreased. Reducing the waiting time in the hospitals likewise decreases the time of direct infection. One of the most critical strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, which the telemedicine system supports.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine became a safe alternative to many procedures that were normally done face-to-face before the pandemic. However, there are some concepts that need to be thought of very thoroughly when trying to apply proper telemedicine healthcare. Some of these concepts are the privacy of both the health-provider and the patient, cases of misdiagnosis and patient’s mismanagement. Respecting the privacy of the patients while trying to provide healthcare for the patients may be challenging because the patients might have a hard time adjusting to technical aspects of the e-health systems, especially if the patient is old or is not familiar with the technology that is expected of them to use. Another challenge to telemedicine practice is the limitations to what you can do because of not being able to see the patient in person. Having restrictions as to what physicians can do from behind the screen may lead to miscommunication and thus, misdiagnosis. Lastly, patients will have to manage their own healthcare and this may bring some people stress because of not having anyone to guide them. These are only some of the certain obstacles that prevent the widespread use of the telemedicine practices.

Telemedicine and e-health services are valuable tools that have many advantages as well as barriers. However, the many benefits, such as being cost-effective, reducing face-to-face time and allowing better service to be received by patients, many times eliminate the disadvantages of the use of e-health services.

About the author

Begum COKMEZ and Cagla ESEN are second-year medical students at Istanbul Medipol University, Istanbul, Turkey. Begum has had a great interest in the way the human body works since she was a kid, and her dream is to become a great physician in the future. Cagla is more interested in the physiological process of cancer formation. In addition, tumor and cancer surgery are some of her interests. She wants to become a research physician to figure out and analyze the mechanism of cancer.

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