I don’t think there’s any doubt that technology as a whole has revolutionized medicine for the better. However, a new article has me wondering if all these technological advancements are really improving the patient experience.
The story in question deals with the practice of “telemedicine.” Telemedicine is, essentially, a videoconference between a patient and doctor using web cams and other electronic technology.
Recently, the practice of telemedicine has been utilized to dispense abortion pills to women, according to a new study.
As a health care provider, I usually choose not to get involved in the abortion debate, but honestly, this story really bothers me.
When the concept of telemedicine was introduced several years ago, one of its main purposes was to bring greater access to medical specialties, especially in isolated, rural areas.
After its introduction, it became clear that telemedicine had some limitations. One of the most critical limitations was that physicians lacked the ability to do a hands-on physical examination of the patient.
Therefore, rather than becoming the norm, telemedicine became a supplementary tool, especially with regard to diagnostic services, such as ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans, in which primary care doctors could seek a second opinion from specialty consultants in other locations.
In this particular situation, however, I think that the way telemedicine is being utilized to dispense abortion pills is something that could potentially put many young women at risk for both physical and psychological problems.
The decision to have an abortion, and the procedure that follows that choice, should involve a very intimate discussion between the patient and her health care provider.
To do it through a computer screen, which is characterized by a distinct coldness and lack of human contact, may leave many women troubled and wondering if they made the best decision for their particular situation.
In fact, as you can see clearly from the results of the study, one quarter of women who received abortion pills through a telemedicine consultation felt that if they had to do it again, they would not choose to do it this way.
So let us hope that this particular use of telemedicine does not become a widespread, national trend and that the technology is utilized for more appropriate reasons in the future.
What do you think?
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.