Pros and Cons of Telehealth


Lori Uscher-Pines, Senior Policy Researcher

There's a number of advantages of telehealth. First of all, it can improve access to care, for example, in communities that lack providers. It can also provide an alternative that is more convenient for certain patients, for example, those with work or caregiving responsibilities. Another thing that telehealth is uniquely suited to do is to reduce some of the stigma associated with seeking in-person care. If you're a patient with substance use disorder, for example, you may be hesitant to seek care at a local treatment facility because you're worried about being seen there. Telehealth allows you to get the care you need from the privacy of your own home.

One interesting thing, though, is that telehealth's greatest strength—its convenience—is also perhaps its greatest weakness. Because telehealth is so convenient, this can lead patients to seek care for conditions that might resolve on their own or for reasons that may not improve population health. So it can lead to overutilization, which is a key concern with telehealth. Another drawback of telehealth is that it may not be appropriate in all cases and may not deliver equivalent quality in all cases. This is because providers can't do a physical exam and they can't use all of their senses to aid in diagnosis and treatment decisions.

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