Home Health Telemedicine: when do patients and caregivers like it?

Telemedicine: when do patients and caregivers like it?

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Telemedicine: when do patients and caregivers like it?

There are those who have had to change their mind after discovering that the remote interaction with the doctor was not such a frustrating and unsatisfactory experience, and those who consider this method very useful for overcoming logistical and bureaucratic problems. However, there are also those who consider it not very functional for making first visits or emergencies, those who feel alone and abandoned and those who think that WhatsApp is a useful but problematic tool, because it is invasive and because it is impossible to regulate times and spaces. These are some of the testimonies that ISTUD Sanità e Salute research has collected on the use of telemedicine, questioning patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers, health policy decision makers and managers of the health sector. The survey was designed to understand what people who used it think about telemedicine during the pandemic. This is a very strategic objective, given that digital health – including telemedicine – is at the heart of the PNRR funding for the “new” post-covid National Health Service.

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The good and the bad of telemedicine

From July 2021 to March of this year, 110 testimonies were collected. It emerged that the use of telemedicine by patients is still limited, but the interest in better understanding how it works is high, because its benefits are recognized: avoiding travel if not strictly necessary, exchanging documents quickly and having quicker feedback from your doctor. And also to keep clinical parameters and lifestyles under control using the special apps, often recommended by some doctors, who would even consider the idea of ​​”prescribing” them, as some data from the Digital Health Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano reveal.

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And the testimonies collected among doctors highlight various positive aspects in the use of telemedicine, for example the ability for some of them to transmit empathy even at a distance, even in an easier and more natural way than in face-to-face appointments: ” Focusing only on the patient’s face – several professionals said – was useful to better understand moods and emotions “. This aspect is also confirmed by most of the patients, who felt listened to and understood, albeit remotely. “It is essential not to dehumanize oneself – explains Maria Giulia Marini, Scientific Director of the Health and Health Area of ​​ISTUD – and to ensure that the doctor-patient relationship always remains relevant, not only when the patient is fragile, as we often record from narratives”.

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Use of telemedicine promoted with flying colors even between one medical visit and another, especially for those patients with chronic diseases, who need continuous checks and an easier life. The caregivers are also less satisfied, because it increases the load of what they already have to manage, organizing adequate spaces in the house, making sure you have a good connection and helping your loved one to use computers or other devices during connections, which is not always trivial without support. for those who are not so familiar with technology.

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How to improve telemedicine

The survey first of all brought to light a fact: to do telemedicine you have to learn how to use it. A warning both for healthcare personnel and for patients and caregivers. However, it is also necessary to invest in infrastructures, because training is nothing without the necessary tools: it is therefore necessary to equip the entire national territory with fiber for faster connections, with a technology within everyone’s reach and more clarity and fairness on the reimbursement systems of televisions. But if it is true that on the one hand it is necessary to focus on digital innovation and blended assistance paths (i.e. both in presence and at a distance), on the other hand it is necessary to invest not only in physical structures but also in health personnel. In fact, it is unthinkable to move towards remote patient care without first guaranteeing doctors, nurses and places of care. Furthermore, for the managers interviewed, information, dialogue and collaboration in organizational processes are also needed to guarantee personalized functions, and to include the platforms in doctor-patient consultation mode in the electronic medical records of hospital management systems.

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Telemedicine in clinical research

Telemedicine is often thought of only as a tool to support doctors in clinical practice. Yet digital tools can also help in research, for example in monitoring activities (always alongside that of face-to-face visits). Meanwhile, there are those who think about the possibility of carrying out experiments even at a distance.

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