Telemedicine: The Doctor Is Online, but at What Cost?

Andrew N. Wilner, MD


January 12, 2015

In This Article


Fast internet connections and the ubiquity of smart phones, phablets, tablets, and computers with video capability permit virtual medical consultations from nearly anywhere at any time, without the inconvenience of travel and a long wait in a doctor's office. Although virtual consultations may result in satisfactory outcomes for simple medical problems, such as colds and urinary tract infections—perhaps even with cost savings compared with an in-person visit—it is unclear how many important diagnoses will be missed owing to the lack of a real-life, face-to-face interaction.

The warmth of human touch and concern does not travel through cyberspace and cannot be stored in the cloud. For thousands of years, the presence of physicians has been important at the bedside. Frankly, we don't really know why. Telemedicine deprives both patients and clinicians of this tangible element of the doctor/patient relationship.

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe it will. It looks like we're going to find out.


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