Over the years, advances in technology and rapid adoption by healthcare systems have made telemedicine a beneficial lupus management strategy.
Telemedicine refers to clinical care delivered from a distance – often using a smartphone to video chat with clinical care providers. This could include communication or even virtual visits with primary care doctors or community health workers.
Telemedicine can be a huge benefit for patients, particularly in areas where it may be challenging to access health care. It also allows patients to choose their doctors regardless of where these providers are located. Studies and experts suggest that using telemedicine increases patient engagement and positively impacts patient health outcomes.
Advantages to Telemedicine
Telemedicine can help with triaging patients. When patients first discuss their symptoms to medical professionals, telemedicine might help to get the patient the exact care they need. This can be an excellent solution to referrals from primary care providers.
If an individual is experiencing some symptoms of lupus, telemedicine might save that individual a trip to a primary care provider to eventually be referred to a specialist.
Telemedicine can significantly help #LupusWarriors who have skin problems. Dermatologists have embraced telemedicine to help accomadate patients’ schedules.
If a #LupusWarrior experiences photosensitivity, this mode of medicine might be pivotal to a good day or a bad day for that individual.
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Telehealth technology can also help post-surgery significantly with follow-up care. Especially in minor procedures that require just a single over-night visit, video and phone-based follow-up visits might help with patient-engagement. Surgery and recovery can be uncomfortable—and additional time in hospitals can be risky for people with lupus or other autoimmune diseases as the risk of developing an infection is higher.
Mental health is another area where telemedicine can improve patient outcomes. Discussing issues, mood, behavior, etc. with a licensed behavioral health provider can be done virtually.
Patients in Rural Areas
In the past, individuals seeking specialist care might have had to travel a good distance to reach a specialist. This is especially true for people in rural areas. A qualitative study shows that travel can be a real challenge for #LupusWarriors.
Telehealth technology is now merging with central locations for patients that fall into this category. Specialists can treat a greater number of patients in one day, and #LupusWarriors do not have to experience the discomfort and financial setbacks of medium to long-distance travel.
Disadvantages to Telemedicine
Despite the growing interest in telemedicine and telehealth services, some patients have some serious concerns about this modality of medicine. Even though the method of communication is secure (US federal law requires the connection between patients and providers must be HIPAA compliant), some individuals might find telemedicine strange at first.
With remote sensory technology and video chats, physical exams do not require the patient and the doctor to be in the same room. The general consensus is still that for first-time physical exams, telehealth is not a best-practice.
A telehealth system can deliver care to individuals. But, it also has the real potential to be interfered with because of technology problems. Poor internet connection or system issues can lead to poor user experiences that may not be beneficial to patient or doctor.
Many patients realize that this modality of medicine is growing and are adopting it for the benefits. It is a technology that has been shown to increase engagement, outcomes, and patient-flow for #LupusWarriors. If you are looking for additional ways to interact with your lupus treatment team, telemedicine may be a great addition to your healthcare toolkit.