Telemedicine: Not Perfect but Still a Worthy Healthcare Tool

Something revolutionary is taking place in Brazil’s healthcare system. That something is an explosion of telemedicine, despite the fact that it has yet to be formally approved by the Brazilian government. Consumers are using it by the tens of thousands. By all indications, telemedicine is poised to become a permanent fixture in Brazil.

Don’t look now, but telemedicine is sweeping across the globe. It is not just big in Brazil. Unfortunately, changes of this magnitude do not take place without resistance. There are those in the medical profession who do not have a good opinion of telemedicine. Some of their criticisms are valid but, when you get right down to it, there really is no perfect solution for offering healthcare services to the masses.

Telemedicine certainly is not perfect; it absolutely has shortcomings. Yet it is still a worthy healthcare tool that should be added to the selection of traditional tools we currently use. Dismissing telemedicine because it is not perfect is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It Started with COVID

Telemedicine got its start in Brazil with the COVID pandemic. Like everywhere else in the world, COVID restrictions forced hospitals, healthcare clinics, and individual practices to shut down except for emergency needs. Patients still interested in visiting with their physicians turned to telemedicine.

Although not officially approved, telemedicine was given the green light by government officials on an emergency basis. Little did they know that letting the telemedicine genie out of the bottle would create an impossible situation trying to put it back in. That is where Brazil is now.

COVID and Flu Diagnoses

News reports out of Brazil say that telemedicine use has skyrocketed since Christmas. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the number of patients utilizing telemedicine solutions to visit doctors over COVID and flu concerns more than doubled, from 7000 to 15,000. During the first few days of January, 50,000 patients visited with their doctors via telemedicine.

It is not clear how technologically advanced telemedicine solutions are in Brazil. But according to San Antonio-based CSI Health, modern health screening kiosks are more than just small booths with video chat capabilities. The kiosks they build can be fitted with a range of diagnostic tools including EKG/ECG, ultrasound/sonogram, digital stethoscope, otoscope, and blood pressure cuff.

In addition, cloud technology facilitates both videoconferencing and sending all diagnostic data to healthcare providers in real time. A doctor has access to all the diagnostic data during a telemedicine visit, thereby being able to consult with the patient more effectively.

It Has Its Limits

Granted, telemedicine technology has its limits. But those limits can be overcome. Furthermore, resisting telemedicine because it is not perfect only serves to inhibit a technology that could make a real difference. For example, one of the criticisms in Brazil is that not everyone is familiar with digital technology.

That may be true, but there is no need to make telemedicine a do-it-yourself enterprise. Telemedicine kiosks can be deployed with human assistance included. Remote telemedicine clinics can be established and then staffed by registered nurses with technology training.

A lack of internet access is another criticism in Brazil. The simple solution is to fully deploy high-speed internet access across the country. In the meantime, you still roll out telemedicine solutions where internet access is available.

Despite not being officially approved by government regulators, telemedicine is demonstrating its full potential in Brazil. What is happening there is happening in other countries as well. Telemedicine may not be perfect, but it is still a worthy healthcare tool where people are willing to utilize it.