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What is Telemedicine in Healthcare? All You Need to Know

How effective is telemedicine in healthcare?

Telemedicine is a dynamic field that is progressing rapidly in this advanced world. The initial days of telemedicine started with the advent of telecommunications technology, through which information was sent in the form of electromagnetic signals over a distance. 

The affordability and accessibility to basic telemedicine tools have increased considerably everywhere, again due to the technological progression. The main reason why telemedicine came into the fore was to treat patients remotely, in cases where they are situated far away from health centers.

Today, apart from this, telemedicine is looked upon as convenient medical care as people are way too busy nowadays to wait forever in waiting rooms to get treatment and the need to get immediate attention during urgent situations. 

Telemedicine has risen to its current position due to the increase in demand for convenient care and due to the unavailability of enough medical professionals as they are already overburdened.  Most telemedicine companies provide 24/7 access to healthcare to the patients along with an on-call doctor available anytime, provided by the company. 

Few telemedicine platforms offer physicians with virtual visits for their patients. Others offer hospitals and health centers with access to extra specialists and clinical staff for outsourcing when any special need rises. 

Let us break down and understand telemedicine with an example. 

What is telemedicine? 

Telemedicine is a mobile app that helps physicians provide care to their patients via video chat. It is a software solution that allows healthcare practitioners to send a patient’s picture of a mole/rash to a dermatologist in another location. As telemedicine continues to expand, its services are likely to grow as well, encompassing even more health services. 

Types of telemedicine solutions 

Telemedicine consists of a wider range of healthcare services which is not just real-time medical consultations over a video. Telemedicine includes any kind of clinical services that are provided by telecommunications technology. Here is a gist of the different telemedicine solutions. 

 

  • Store-and-Forward Telemedicine Solutions

Also called as asynchronous telemedicine, healthcare providers forward and share patient medical data like lab results, images, videos, records, etc. with a provider who is at a different location. This platform offers a secure, sophisticated chain that lets you share private health data of a patient online in a secure way.

This platform helps with increasing the efficiency in healthcare as the service provider, patient, and a specialist needn’t be in the same place and time. This means that it facilitates faster healthcare diagnosis, especially for those who are located at underserved locations. This amounts to a reduction in patient wait time, readily accessible healthcare, optimized schedules for the physician, and good patient outcome.

 

  • Remote Patient Monitoring 

This is one of the telemedicine solutions that allows healthcare providers track the vital signs of a patient and other data from a distance. This allows for easier monitoring of a patient for any warning signs and also keep track of patients who are at health risk or are recently recovering from surgery. This type of telemedicine is also called as telemonitoring. 

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) started rising in popularity after doctors figured out its effect on chronic care management. For example, a patient can use a glucose tracker at home if she/he has diabetes and measure their glucose levels at regular intervals and send them to a doctor immediately. If everything is fine, then the results will be simply recorded. But if the doctor catches the sign of a red flag, then the patient is immediately notified for an urgent consultation.

 

  • Real-Time Telemedicine 

Also known as synchronous telemedicine, this platform requires a live interaction between health professionals or between a health professional and a patient via audio and video communication. This is supposed to be a virtual alternative to an in-person doctor visit. 

Some examples of this would be Teladoc and DoctoronDemand that offers faster and affordable ways to connect with a doctor from anywhere in the world and get treated. Doctors have also started adopting real-time telemedicine to provide patients with virtual doctor visits, improved patient care outcomes, enhanced work-life balance, as well as other added benefits. 

 

Here is a quick overview of the pros and cons of telemedicine.

Pros of telemedicine: 

  • More accessible and convenient care for patients. 
  • Extended access from specialists to consults. 
  • Increased engagement with patients. 
  • Increase in quality in patient’s care. 

 

Cons of telemedicine: 

  • The need for quality technical training and equipment. 
  • Some telemedicine may require inevitable continuity in care. 
  • May decrease the in-person consultation with doctors. 
  • Keeping track of changing policies and reimbursement positions. 

 

Services offered by popular telemedicine solution specialties: 

  • Teleradiology 
  • Telepsychiatry 
  • Teledermatology 
  • Teleophthalmology 
  • Telenephrology 
  • Teleobstetrics 
  • Teleoncology 
  • Telepathology 
  • Telerehabilitation 

 

Future of telemedicine 

Telemedicine seems to have occupied a secure seat in the future. With technological advancements, it has become easier for telemedicine to be adopted and widely accepted in society. If we look around us, smart glasses and smartwatches like Google Glass and Apple Watch are being used to monitor a patient’s data and transmit them real-time to other healthcare workers.

With the way telemedicine is progressing, it is still necessary to overcome all administrative barriers like state legislation related restrictions on telemedicine, medical board related to state-specific licensing, reimbursement policies concerning the physicians. By the end of 2020, it is estimated that telemedicine will turn out to be a $36.3 billion industry and has carved a great future for itself. 

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