Telemedicine is like teleporting your doctor while staying in the comfort of your own home. It saves doctors and patients time and money on travel and comes with multiple other advantages.
For many patients, telemedicine is a whole new experience. But in fact, such a concept of e-prescriptions isn’t new: this practice has been around as long as telephones existed. Later on, the emergence of the internet transformed digital health services, so people in remote areas with limited access to healthcare could receive the medical attention they required by attending virtual care visits. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to online medication management with the rapid adoption of telehealth worldwide.
Still, although telehealth services assist both patients and providers, this widespread adoption has been hampered by several barriers. So in this article, we will review the benefits and drawbacks of buying medicines online.
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Advantages of Online Medicine
Telemedicine or telehealth services refer to electronic communications and software to deliver clinical aid in the form of virtual sessions with doctors or e-prescribing. Everyone involved, from the patient to the prescriber to the pharmacy employee who hands the prescription to the patient, benefits from such a modern approach. Let’s explore its advantages in detail.
Telemedicine delivers quality healthcare easier and faster than traditional medicine to anyone who needs it. Patients are saved from traveling to the hospital or doctor’s office, booking advanced appointments, or waiting in long lines. In addition, ordering medicines through e-pharmacy is handy, especially for disabled people, the elderly, and those who live far away from the traditional pharmacy.
Telemedicine is more cost-effective than traditional healthcare. First, you are spared from admission and traveling costs. Second, medicines may be more affordable online because suppliers can serve more clients from a single central location. Also, the buyer can get prescription medication through the mail if they use an online pharmacy. Some mail-order pharmacies even come with extra perks: they require only two copays for a three-month supply of particular medications.
Telemedicine was first developed in the United States to address the shortage of care, particularly in inaccessible rural areas. Now, it is used worldwide to provide primary healthcare in third-world countries and helps elderly patients with limited mobility to see a doctor from the comfort of their own homes. Moreover, telemedicine allows traditional healthcare providers to reach out to more patients and address their concerns in a shorter period. Hence, it can remove typical geographical health barriers and assists in solving clients’ problems faster, which makes the entire healthcare delivery model more convenient.
Disaster telemedicine refers to telemedicine used in the cases of high emergency. It is a rapidly expanding technology that can be used to improve access to health care during natural disasters or pandemics on a national or global scale. Online medication management is also beneficial in times of crisis. In such cases, it frequently has a positive impact on the day-to-day operations of hospitals, physician practices, or home health care facilities that get a lot of requests. Online prescriptions allow reaching patients in rural areas and monitoring patient compliance more accurately.
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Customers can order medicines privately and conveniently from online chemist stores and get free delivery in some cases. Since some people prefer to speak with a prescriber over the phone or online rather than in person, telemedicine platforms provide such an opportunity. So, patients feel more at ease when using virtual services and at the same time, they can be sure about the security of their data.
Fewer Prescription Errors
As opposed to hand-written prescriptions, e-prescriptions are clearer in terms of treatment and dosage and require less explanation from the pharmacist. This has the potential to reduce medication and prescription errors. It can also help ensure that patients have the most up-to-date information about a particular drug. E-prescriptions can also lower the risk of a patient receiving an incorrect dose, which can waste time or even cause harm. One meta-study, for example, discovered that implementing an e-prescribing system could reduce medication error to one-seventh of its original levels.
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Improved Mental Healthcare
The process of getting online prescriptions for mental illnesses is also called Telepsychiatry; it involves a psychiatrist and patient’s direct interaction. Telepsychiatry helps improve mental health access by satisfying patients’ desire for affordable, convenient, and easily accessible health services. Examples of some common prescriptions in Telepsychiatry are the following:
Online Availability of Pet Medicines
Telemedicine has also expanded to cover related areas like veterinary medicine. These new technologies allow providing online diagnostic and treatment services for pets, including an option of prescribing specific medicine without taking the pet to the hospital for a physical examination. Telehealth services for pets can be offered in several different ways. For example, telephone calls, text messaging, online chat, email consultations, and visits conducted through video conferencing programs. Online pet prescriptions can include cat anxiety medication, pain relievers, and antiparasitics, among others.
Disadvantages of Online Medicine
Even as telehealth services expand to address many national healthcare issues, there are still drawbacks. The following sections look at the cons of online medicine:
No Physical Examination
Many prescription-based websites only provide a brief consultation with the doctor, which consists of the patient answering a few questions before issuing a prescription. Although some online pharmacies offer a thorough consultation via video conferencing, these sessions do not include a physical examination. Lack of physical examination poses a risk that the drug may be prescribed too easily to people who may not need the medicine.
Chances of Fraud or Scam
Some sellers do not dispense drugs through licensed pharmacies, which increases a patient’s risk of receiving counterfeit, substandard, or adulterated medications. Only licensed, controlled, and adequately examined pharmacies guarantee safe dispensing practices and the supervision of licensed pharmacists. Online pharmacy websites that do not provide their contacts, or worse, publish incorrect information, can be the ones to sell fake, substandard, or impure products or may not send you anything at all. In addition, some international pharmacies are specifically granted a license to export and import prescription medication within a free trade zone but not within domestic jurisdiction. Individuals importing FDA-approved drugs from other countries for personal use are generally prohibited. According to MMA amendments, personal importation of prescription drugs that the FDA has not approved for use in the United States is only permitted on a case-by-case basis.
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Chances of Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis is the most severe risk in telehealth because the information a medical professional obtains during virtual sessions may be not sufficient. A dermatologist, for example, may miss a skin lesion that is more serious than a rash. Another malpractice risk derived from the previous one is if the doctor prescribes the wrong treatment plan because of misdiagnosis. To avoid such situations, book appointments at credible telemedicine platforms where doctors are trained to treat patients virtually.
Internet Service Issues
There is no escaping the fact that telehealth requires the use of the internet. Even though some aspects of an appointment may be handled over the phone, the vast majority will necessitate some form of visual assessment by the clinician. These services rely heavily on a reliable internet connection, which is not yet available to everyone. The entire session can end or delay if the patient or the doctor loses contact. Moreover, the devices and internet connection to support these services are a must-have.
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Another factor contributing to telehealth’s rapid growth is a push from younger generations as well as what they value in healthcare. For the younger generation, technology is like a second language. They value the convenience that digital options provide because of their hectic schedules. On the other hand, older generations are less likely to use telehealth services. They struggle with technology more because they don’t use it as frequently and don’t understand how to use telehealth services effectively. This is a clear impediment to elderly patients using these services, even though it would benefit them because they may have difficulty getting to the doctor.
The federal government has not made a final decision on uniform telehealth policies. Therefore, different states have their own set of rules governing the use and reimbursement of services, which can make it difficult to obtain online medical care. States should think about how these rules will affect people’s ability to get online healthcare as technology progresses and supply grows.
Added ‘Convenience’ Fees
Some telemedicine sites charge patients a “convenience fee”, ranging from $35 to $125 per visit. This fee is in addition to or instead of any reimbursement from a payer. This means that patients are paying for this extra convenience out-of-pocket. Your insurance may not cover the convenience fee.
Selling Dangerous Prescriptions
In many cases, Rogue online pharmacies sell potentially dangerous prescription drugs at lower prices to customers in the United States. To prevent deception, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to the website operators, informing them that they are engaging in illegal activity in violation of the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
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Medical Professionals Who Effectively Use Telemedicine
Several categories of health professionals practice online medical prescriptions. Below, we’ve listed six kinds of doctors who use telemedicine services the most nowadays.
Diagnosis of cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, appendicitis, trauma, and skeletal disorders can be provided by radiologists via telemedicine using a Computed Tomography (CT) scanner that provides uncompromised image quality and outstanding clinical performance.
A telehealth pathologist assists your primary care doctor to make a diagnosis about your health or any medical problems you have with the help of laboratory tests. These doctors also study body fluid and tissues and observe the health of patients suffering from chronic conditions.
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Psychiatrists provide online consultations to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Telehealth psychiatrists also provide treatment through the use of medication, neuromodulation, and psychotherapy.
Obstetrics is the branch of medicine that aims to provide medical health care for pregnant women. Telehealth Ob-gyn offers online consultation to pregnant ladies via checking their symptoms and reports.
Gastroenterologists are health professionals who are trained to diagnose and treat problems in a gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver. Gastroenterologists provide online consultation and prescription by checking colonoscopies (a test used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine) and by asking the patient about their physical symptoms.
Allergists and Immunologists
You can get a telehealth consultation from an immunologist in case you have allergies (food or seasonal), hay fever, eczema, or an autoimmune disease. An allergist can provide your prescription according to your symptoms and condition.
Answering Most Asked Queries
Is it ok to buy medicine online?
Safety of buying drugs online is only guaranteed in licensed pharmacies. So, it would help if you conduct thorough research of the chosen pharmacy.
Can a physical therapist prescribe medication?
Physical therapists (PT) are inclined to improve their patient’s overall health, strength, well-being, and physical healing. A physical therapist can write prescriptions for physical therapy treatment programs.
Is the evaluation of medication effectiveness necessary for telemedicine?
To improve clinical and financial outcomes of online medicines or telehealth programs, non-standard measures are important. Staff experience and patient satisfaction surveys are conducted to fulfill this evolutionary process, and non-traditional feedback from patients is gathered.
Can a psychiatrist prescribe medication online?
Yes, a psychiatrist can prescribe medications to treat mental health conditions during an online appointment.
Can a psychologist prescribe medication online?
Psychologists can refer a patient to a psychiatrist for medication if needed, but they can not prescribe medication themselves.
The current era has added to the development of telemedicine, which has emerged as a new global trend. Although telehealth services are expanding to address many national health care issues, there are still drawbacks. Most healthcare providers agree that the pros of telehealth services outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t mean the disadvantages should be overlooked. The main goal behind promoting the telemedicine field is to provide patients with more accessible and convenient healthcare.
To get an online consultation with a licensed prescriber, contact MEDvidi. Our mental health experts offer treatment for various mental health issues such as general anxiety disorder, depression, stress, ADHD, and other mental health problems.