Over the weekend, I read an article in the United Kingdom's Sunday Express newspaper. The article was about the National Health Service in Britain facing a £20 billion (pound) shortfall in its budget and the opportunity to save £3 billion by eliminating physician office visits. The in-person visits would be replaced with Skype or Facetime between the physician and the patient. The immediate criticism of these virtual clinics is the inability for those who are technically challenged, such as the elderly or the poor having the ability to access mobile technology due to the cost. The idea is one that is being borrowed from India, where it is reported to have been successfully implemented.
From my perspective, the idea is a good one as we are trying such a mobile link between our nursing home and the hospital, but it certainly has its limitations. Offering the virtual clinic as an option for those who are technically savvy is a good idea, but the complete replacement of office visits is not a good idea. The risk of missing something via telehealth or mobile technology could be far greater and would be a more significant issue in the US without more comprehensive tort reform. So, there are lots of benefits with this technology and it should be expanded upon, but not depended upon exclusively.