The rise of technology has brought with it profound changes for medical practice, with telemedicine being up there as one of the most innovative and rapidly growing solutions for the delivery of healthcare.
With strong demand from a new and tech savvy generation, telemedicine’s adoption is being pushed rapidly for its convenience, cost effectiveness and intelligent features, and it’s only a matter of time until the vast majority of healthcare providers, medical groups and solo practitioners integrate telemedicine as a fundamental part of their medical services.
Put simply, telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services. It’s a tool in which physicians and patients can share information in real-time through digital devices such as computers and smartphones.
Beginning over 40 years ago with hospitals extending their healthcare services to patients in remote locations, telemedicine has been through a remarkable evolution. With the increased use of broadband internet technology, both audio and video calls are now affordable and available to a wide spectrum of society. This has made telemedicine a feasible alternative to the conventional system, and it’s quickly establishing itself as an increasingly important part of the healthcare infrastructure.
Telemedicine Vs. Telehealth
It’s a common misunderstanding that telemedicine and telehealth are interchangeable. However, each of these terms refer to a different way of administering healthcare by means of medical technology.
Essentially, telemedicine has a narrower scope than telehealth. Where telemedicine refers specifically to the practice of medicine via remote means, telehealth is a blanket term that covers a broader scope of remote healthcare services.
In short: all telemedicine is telehealth, but not all telehealth is telemedicine. Regardless of their subtle differences, both are part of the larger effort of expanding access to care, making health management easier, and improving the efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Types of Telemedicine
There are three common types, that include but aren’t limited to:
Store and Forward:
This telemedicine surpasses the need for the medical practitioner to meet with the patient face-to-face. Instead, data such as bio signals or medical images can be sent to the practitioner as needed and when is required from the patient. Not only can these systems communicate across vast distances, they can even cross different systems, leading to fewer instances of poor medical management. This practice is common in the medical fields of radiology, dermatology and pathology.
Remote Patient Monitoring:
Also known as self-monitoring or self-testing, this type of telemedicine involves the use of a range of technological devices to monitor the health and clinical signs of a patient remotely, and it’s used extensively in the management of chronic diseases. Using patient portals, physicians are able to collect and share information with patients. These devices can also send vital signals to providers, allowing them to make prompt adjustments to care as necessary.
Also known as ‘live telemedicine’, this allows patients and physicians to communicate with one another in real-time. This type of telemedicine uses two-way communication methods such as video conferencing, live chat, or phone calls. Consultations about presenting symptoms can be undertaken, as well as follow-up assessments similar to those conducted in person.
One of the overarching benefits of telemedicine is its accessibility, with its requirements being no more significant than a web camera and a secure patient portal to connect the provider to patients electronic medical records.
For patients, the main benefits come from its convenience and flexibility. Those who had limited access to healthcare services can now see a physician without leaving their home. There’s no commute, meaning there’s no cost of transport, and there’s no pressing need take time off of work or to arrange child care.
For healthcare providers, the benefits continue. The technology that comes integrated with telemedicine software, such as AI diagnostics and electronic medical records, allow providers to better determine diagnoses and treatment. Medical streaming devices mean providers can monitor patients in real-time, allowing for quick adjustments of treatment plans. The utilisation of telemedicine also increases revenue, with healthcare providers now being able to see more patients without the need to hire extra staff or increase healthcare space.
By reviewing the many benefits of telemedicine, we see that they all have one thing in common: they lead to better patient outcomes. It’s advantages stand to argue that telemedicine more than makes sense, and in fact, it is turning into a market-driven necessity.
The Future Of The Market
For many years, analysts have highlighted the potential benefits of using telemedicine for increased access to healthcare, improved quality of care, reduction of healthcare costs, and improved patient engagement and satisfaction. However, it is only in recent years that access to telemedicine has begun increasing.
As with any disruptive healthcare innovation, it takes time before it becomes fully embraced across the healthcare community. However, with the right catalyst, the time it takes for such innovations to reach validation becomes significantly faster.
Coronavirus served as a massive catalyst for the rapid growth of telemedicine. Since February 2020, telemedicine grew from less than 1% of primary care visits to nearly 43.5% in April 2020. So, with the current trajectory set, the future of telemedicine is extremely bright, and it’s rapid development is more than likely to continue.
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