I had the opportunity to interview 10 patients (i.e. patients, mothers, and caregivers) to gain their perspective of Telemedicine. Based on my interviews with these patients, I identified some themes that emerged from the discussions. Not surprisingly, eight patients out of the ten patients I interviewed never used telemedicine before 2020. Each patient used telemedicine due to the Covid-19 lockdown restriction, so they connected virtually to their physician for themselves, their child, or as a caregiver. Is the quality better than an in-person visit? There has been much debate on whether a telemedicine visit is better than an in-person visit. I went into these interviews hoping to gain a definite answer, but unfortunately, the interviewees had split opinions. Interestingly, the opinions were split by the type of individuals: for example, parents and caregivers felt the physician did not have the ability to perform vitals such as blood pressure, oxygen level, weight, etc. which is a disadvantage for all patients. One patient stated, “the telemedicine visit was not helpful because the physician could not assess my pain level remotely and I was unable to get an EKG performed.” Additionally, one mother advised that the physician was unable to perform a thorough assessment of her son, because the visit was not in-person, especially with an autistic child. One component that all the patients did agree on is that there were less to no interruptions competing for the physician’s attention. For example, one patient stated: “What I find to be better about a telemedicine visit regarding quality, is that my visits are less disrupted compared to the office. In the office, staff knock on doors during exams.” Ultimately, the jury is still out on whether telemedicine visits are as effective as an in-person visit. Challenges connecting to the physician for a telemedicine visit Adaptability and ease of technology is the most crucial component of whether or not a patient will use the technology. Interestingly, almost everyone I interviewed had issues with the technology with the exception of two patients who work in the Information Technology field. Here are some of the technology issues these patients faced:
- Using telemedicine was easy, but during the visit the physician lost connectivity, which ended the virtual visit prematurely. Thankfully, the physician contacted the patient via telephone to conclude the visit.
- The appointment had to be cancelled and rescheduled due to connection issues.
- The quality of the image was horrible, so the physician could not see the patient clearly and vice versa.