In 2020, everything is blamed on the COVID. It is so easy to find a culprit for the shortcomings of one's offering.
Telemedicine, or the ability to see a physician without sharing the same room, has been around for a long time. Yet, many reasons have prevented its full implementation, the list including no possibility to do a full examination and assessment in an acute situation, no blood tests or ultrasound can be done and the lack of support from the medical and insurance community.
Yes, there are concerns about online security and privacy. And indeed the internet is not a foolproof mode of communication. It is the best we have now. Reassuringly, modern platforms like Webex, used by governmental bodies and international organisations have an end to end encryption platform and have built privacy at their core.
At the global level, the benefits of telemedicine far outweigh the risks. Just consider the following arguments.
In the circumstances of non-acute medical needs, telemedicine is an ideal tool to offer all patients the opportunity to meet a doctor without having to travel to her/his office. Modern communication means have the ability to place doctors and patients in contact via full video and audio controllable channels, a true face-to-face consultation. Say Goodbye to travel for any distance to see your doctor, worry about finding a parking space, need to top-up the meter. Say Hello to a consultation in time, no need to attend the hospital or clinical environment, no time spent in a waiting room or registering at reception, a clear slot in your calendar and the ability to organise other commitments around it.
The pro and con debate will continue for the foreseeable future. And where is the customer, the many times forgotten patient in this debate? Have patients made their voices and choice heard? When services are coming to a halt, today due to Corona, tomorrow due to lack of staff, money or goodwill, who will ask the question "Why don't we have Telemedicine medical services as mainstream?". And why should we wait until the next crisis starts and not act now by demanding that Telemedicine should be introduced for all to have access, to support patients in need and willing doctors that wish to provide continuity of services for the ones they care for.
Otherwise, medical needs will soon become "non-essential". Is this what we all want?