Telemedicine will, in time, transform the delivery of healthcare for the betterment of individuals and society. However, there is a dark side to telemedicine.
By Russ Alan Prince, Forbes, Contributor
MARCH 11, 2015 – Telemedicine is the diagnosis and treatment of patients – using technology – by healthcare professionals at a distance. For numerous reasons from cost to accessing specialists to ensuring ongoing high-quality care, telemedicine is an eventuality that will dramatically transform, for the better, the way medicine is delivered.
While the adoption of telemedicine by patients and the healthcare community is an eventual fait accompli, there is a potentially disastrous downside that needs to be addressed. Two major problems will be pervasive and potentially devastating as society embraces telemedicine.
First, there will be the problems resulting from computer malfunctions. For example, computer glitches can alter medical records with potentially severe repercussions. If your records say you are not allergic to certain medicines even though you are and you are given them during a hospital stay, there is the certainty of suffering and even the possibility of death.
What happens if you have an implantable medical device such as a cardiac defibrillator or insulin pump and it goes haywire? “Ultimately, every telemedical care application is completely reliant on the quality of the data it generates and the accuracy of its processing. If either is faulty, bad things can happen very quickly.” says Dr. Dan Carlin, CEO of WorldClinic a concierge telemedicine practice based in metro-Boston.
The second problem will be hackers. While medical device makers and healthcare providers are presumed to be well intentioned and committed to doing what is best for patients, hackers certainly are not. The potential for disaster and death because of inaccurate medical records and implantable medical devices are vastly magnified in this scenario.
When people – or parts of them – are connected and controlled through the Internet, then they can be hacked. Without question, hackers can invade the world of telemedicine profiting in a variety of ways. For example, being able to control if a person lives or dies can readily lead to exhortation and murder-for-hire.
The upside of telemedicine is astounding, which is why it will become a core component of healthcare delivery throughout the world. At the same time, there are serious matters that need to be addressed and resolved. Standards – high standards – need to be set and enforced when it comes to all aspects of the business of telemedicine. Also, while it is impossible to ensure total security, steps need to be taken to deal with hacker assaults. If these matters are not addressed, the possibility of telemedicine killing you increases.