Telemedicine began more than 40 years ago with hospitals that were dedicated to extending care to patients who lived in remote or inaccessible regions and were unable to come into an office setting. The rapidly advancing technology field, combined with the commitment to serve patients wherever they are no matter what type of medical help they need, has led to the spread of telemedicine. It is not unusual to see telemedical care, consultation, and supervision as an integrated part of standard procedure in all types of health care environments, as well as in homes and workplaces.
[h2] What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the exchange of medical information between sites through electronic or other types of communication technology for the purposes of improving patient health outcomes. This may be in regard to a single patient or future patients. Interactions may occur through smart phones, email, two-way live video or video conferencing, wireless platforms, or other types of interface technology.
Services offered through telemedicine
In today’s technologically savvy medical environment there are numerous services that can be conducted via telemedicine. Primary care and referral services can be provided through conferencing with patients, allied professionals, or referral sources, including consulting on diagnostic images and findings for the purpose of diagnosis. Remote patient monitoring can be used to discreetly collect data on a person’s health that can be transmitted to local health care facilities to supplement home health care with visiting nurses or other health care professionals. Consumer health education can be provided via telemedicine services so consumers can access health information and be referred to discussion groups or peer support groups. Medical education can be provided for continuing education of medical professionals both locally and in remote areas.
Benefit of telemedicine
There are a number of benefits of using telemedicine including:
- Increased access: Increased access to health care professionals and information is important for patients, but increased access between health care providers is also important to increase communication and gain specialty consultations, especially in rural areas.
- Improved outcomes: Studies have demonstrated that many services are as good as in-person consultations when offered through teleconferencing. Telemedicine also can be used to increase contact through supplemental services to traditional health care options, thereby improving short- and long-term outcomes. This method has been shown to result in greater satisfaction than when traditional means are used alone.
- Increased efficiency: Telemedicine can be used to do pre-appointment screenings and update medical histories, improving work flow that is often disrupted by normal daily fluctuations in patient appointments.
- Cost effectiveness: Telemedicine can reduce health care costs through better management of chronic diseases, decreased number of emergency room visits, reduced travel times, and decreased frequency of hospitalization.
- Patient Demand: One of the biggest benefits of telemedicine is meeting patient demands. Patients want telemedicine. These services offer consumers the ability to consult with providers they might not otherwise have access to and the ability to check in with providers for fast feedback about medications, symptoms, and side effects without the need for a face-to-face appointment.