This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Fábio Lima Baggio and Ms. Natália Federle are fourth grade medical students at a university in southern Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the dynamics of healthcare systems worldwide. Due to the fast spread of the virus through aerosols and droplets, World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the world population do social isolation, reducing interpersonal contact. As a result, millions of people fail to attend face-to-face consultations, for fear of contracting the virus but also to follow WHO recommendations. This caused changes in the structure of healthcare, which directly affected patient care, regardless of the pathology. Telemedicine proved to be an alternative to this situation, promoting a more dynamic service to current needs through technology. Despite the barriers inherent to the technique, this is a modality that allows good viability in the future of Medicine.
Telemedicine, when well used, allows the evaluation of patients without their exposure to health services – places where there is a greater chance of new coronavirus infection. This allows social isolation to continue, which contributes to the regression of the pandemic. This method also allows care regardless of the distance between doctor and patient, which favors the inclusion of individuals that live far from large urban centers, which usually concentrate the most advanced health services. In addition, this service technique is viable for monitoring chronic disease patients, in whom the diagnosis is already established and, therefore, the focus should be on the evaluation of specific manifestations of each pathology. Not to mention the fact that through the availability of online consultations, the patient can have wider access to the professional, allowing the clarification of doubts. In relation to the doctor, the greater access to patients through cell phone or computer allows the verification of adhesion to treatment besides the constant evaluation of the evolution of clinical condition.
Despite this, telemedicine is not only beneficial. It does not allow, for example, the creation of an important link between the health professional and the patient, which can be fundamental for a good collection of data in the anamnesis and a good establishment of the therapy. In addition, this technique does not allow the integral evaluation of the patient, and does not completely replace the face-to-face consultation, due to the lack of a detailed and complete physical examination, which is one of the main points to make an accurate diagnosis.
Therefore, it is concluded that telemedicine is not a perfect care methodology, as it does not allow the full execution of the clinical evaluation. However, it is an excellent option for moments of risk to public health, such as the current pandemic of the new coronavirus. It is important to adapt health systems to the reality of the population, through simple technological solutions that allow the interaction of doctor and patient, such as through the use of messaging applications or by making video calls on cell phones. Technology is the main characteristic of the 21st century and health systems must use it in favor of humanity, in order to provide a fairer and integral care to individuals who need it.