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What are some of the challenges, limitations in telemedicine?

A close-up image of a faceless health care provider, wearing a white coat and a stethoscope. There are several pens in the person's pocket and the logo Sprint Original is on the end of the stethoscope around their neck.
Jordan Hill, an Indiana University assistant research scientist, said there are several limitations – including the lack of genuine connection between patient and provider.

What are some of the limitations surrounding telemedicine in Indiana? Several audience members inspired this question.

Jordan Hill is an assistant research scientist with Indiana University’s School of Public Health.

She said telemedicine may offer the opportunity for remote doctor visits, certain tests, tele-rehabilitation, and therapy or mental health services to be done online.

However, Hill said there are several limitations – including the lack of genuine connection between patient and provider.

“That face-to-face connection – you can have the best camera and the best internet connection, but it's not the same,” Hill said.

Hill said while telemedicine can be helpful for those in rural or isolated areas, challenges exist in access to – and quality of – the technology required to facilitate telemedicine.

“If you're doing video conferencing, you would need an internet connection – preferably a high-speed internet connection – which, again, depending on how rural you are, that may be a factor that limits your ability to make use of telemedicine,” she said.” You also, you need some kind of technology that will allow for that video conferencing.”

Hill said those who are not “tech savvy” – including older adults – may struggle with using the technology necessary to facilitate telemedicine.

READ MORE: How is telemedicine being used in Indiana and who is it benefitting and serving?

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Additionally, she said there are certain services that are just better in person.

“If you want a health care professional to look at something, like a rash or something, you need to have a good enough camera or a good enough ability to capture what that looks like in order for that to be effective at all,” Hill said.

Another concern is data security within this technology.

“If you're sending personal, identifiable health information over the internet, you’ll want to make sure that it's secure and not going to be intercepted or seen by people that you don't want to see it,” Hill said.

She said some video conferencing platforms are “looking into” creating more secure platforms for telemedicine appointments. Hill said another way to get over the data security concern barrier is to make telemedicine appointments and give information over the phone.

For other concerns, such as lack of connection between patients and doctors, Hill said there aren’t many immediate options and this is something that likely has to be sacrificed when using telehealth.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.