Telemedicine has rapidly gained popularity thanks to its ability to remotely avail medical care over the email, phone, or video chat. Today, people can access birth control, dermatological care, HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), therapy, erectile dysfunction medications, therapy, and UTI treatments from wherever they are, without visiting a doctor’s office.
Well, the harsh realities– where inmates have complex medical needs and accessing an offsite doctor is a lengthy process– telemedicine has proved to be primarily an integral part of prison health care.
How telemedicine has improved health care in prison
Telemedicine is considered a better alternative to manage the demand for medical care in prison. Here’s how telemedicine has helped:
Shorter waiting time
Telemedicine is a vital triage system. The specialist can go over complaints and do a moderate physical exam with or without the help of an on-site medical staff as well as order diagnostic lab tests if need be. That means that those inmates whose health conditions do not need in-person care don’t have to deal with the logistical difficulties of going to the hospital. Given that inmates are more susceptible to all manner of illness, this reduces the waiting time to receive medical care.
Better specialist-patient engagement
Inmates don’t have to be handcuffed when receiving care. That means the patients can engage directly with the specialists on an equal level. Besides, it is easier to talk to patients (mainly through video chats) when the guards aren’t surrounding the conversation. Even when present, the guards won’t be imposing as they might be when handcuffed to an offsite hospital.
Better health outcomes
Telemedicine has significantly enhanced health care, especially for common conditions among the prison populace. For inmates who are HIV positive, telemedicine has enabled them to have better health outcomes like lower viral loads and stronger immune systems. For hepatitis C patients, diagnosis and treatment have shown similar improvements.
Minimal or no travels
In the past, physicians had to deal with long trips and extensive security to see patients at prisons. Today, they can see them from the comfort of their office. Also, inmates who had to travel offsite for care now leave the prison only for appointments that need in-person care like surgery.
Telemedicine is a genuinely transformative force for inmates who need specialized healthcare. It has connected inmates to service providers they would not otherwise have access to, and improved provision of services.