Two recent editorials in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology discuss the benefits and drawbacks of telehealth in the context of treating chronic kidney disease now and in the future.
Out of necessity, telehealth has grown enormously in recent years, leading to improved efficiencies and high levels of patient satisfaction. Video-based telemedicine can simplify patient care, advance preventive health measures, and facilitate the treatment of kidney diseases. But what are the limitations? What kinds of scenarios require hands-on care? What are some of the key benefits of virtual visits?
Two recent editorials in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) discuss the benefits and drawbacks of telehealth in the context of treating chronic kidney disease now and in the future.
In “ Patient Views on Telehealth for Kidney Disease Care, ” Julie Glennon recognizes that telehealth offers considerable savings in time and money. “Cost savings are helpful to any patient, and a telehealth appointment saves money on gas and parking. Having a doctor’s appointment in your home also saves time. Telehealth is a definite advantage for people who have kidney disease who are working or have young kids to care for at home.”
In “ Telehealth and Kidney Disease Care: Role After the Public Health Emergency, ” Susie Lew and Neal Sikka point out that “the telehealth literature has consistently reflected high patient satisfaction. For those who are skeptical about telehealth, we feel a telehealth visit is better than no visit at all for new or existing patients. However, it is important to ensure clear escalation guidelines to in-person and emergency care.”
Certainly there remain compelling reasons for in-person visits. “Some situations just cannot be handled with telehealth. For example, touching a patient’s legs or abdomen for edema must be done in person,” observes Glennon. “There are times when physically going into a doctor’s office or imaging facility is necessary. I know patients who have not had any routine medical tests, e.g., a mammogram, for fear of catching COVID-19. Unfortunately, many types of medical tests must be done outside of the home.”
According to Lew and Sikka, privacy and security are also factors. “Privacy and security continue to be ongoing issues related to health care data and may be a reason patients are reluctant to connect via video or fully leverage digital health tools. Some patients may be hesitant to connect over video because they do not want to reveal their living space to the clinician.”