Telemedicine, also known as telehealth is becoming a daily medical standard practice used by healthcare professionals throughout the world. Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology, by medical practitioners, to remotely evaluate, diagnose and treat patients (GlobalMed). This is made possible by the use of a variety of applications and services that include using two-way video services, email, smart phones, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology.
What Services Can Be Provided By Telemedicine?
- Primary care and specialist referrals services- This may involve a primary care physician (PCP) or an allied healthcare professional that provides a consultation with a patient or specialist assisting the PCP in rendering a diagnosis. Usually, this involves that use of interactive video or the use of store and forward transmission of diagnostic images, vital signs, and/or video clips along with patient data for later review.
- Remote patient monitoring- This includes home telehealth; in other words patients are able to use devices to remotely and collect and send data to a home health agency or a remote diagnostic testing facility (RDTF) for interpretation. Such data may be collected from specific vital signs, such as blood glucose or heart ECG or a variety of indicators for homebound patients.
- Consumer medical and health information- Includes the use of the Internet and wireless devices in obtaining specialized health information and on-line discussion groups to provide peer-to-peer support.
What Are The Benefits of Telemedicine?
- Improved Access- Not only does telemedicine improve access to patients but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach, beyond their own offices. Given the provider shortages throughout the world--in both rural and urban areas--telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase service to millions of new patients.
- Cost Effective – Reducing or containing the cost of healthcare is one of the most important reasons for funding and adopting telehealth technologies. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
- Patient Demand –Using telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses for the patient. Over the past 15 years, studies have documented patient satisfaction and support for telemedical services. Such services offer patients the access to providers that might not be available otherwise, as well as medical services without the need to travel long distances.
These are just a few of the benefits that can be realized from the use of telemedicine. As the industry continues to grow and change, it is important to have a basic understanding of how it works and see if it the best fit for you or how it may lead you to an opportunity to inform someone who may benefit from the very same knowledge.