Telemedicine is the Health Care of the Future
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the exchange of medical information, the remote diagnoses and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology. This approach has evolved from the increased use of technology in our daily lives and it’s now becoming an important part of the American health care infrastructure.
Telemedicine VS Telehealth
Although used interchangeably, there’s a significant distinction between the terms telemedicine and telehealth.
Telehealth includes a broad range of technology and services used to not only provide patient services but improve the health care system as a whole. Telehealth is different from Telemedicine in the way that it facilitates the entire delivery of health care, not just clinical services. Telehealth can refer to administrative training, provider meetings, and other non-clinical health care services.
Telemedicine refers to the use of electronics and online software to remotely diagnose and treat patients, as well as provide other clinical services. Telemedicine is most often used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, specialist consultations, and medication management.
Applications of Telemedical Technology
Conducting routine follow-up visits with telemedical technology is not only more efficient for both patients and providers, it reduces missed appointments and improves patient outcomes.
Chronic Disease Management
Online appointments with health care providers allow patients to take control over their health and efficiently manage their chronic illnesses.
Preventative Health Care
Preventative health measures such as weight loss and the discontinuation of tobacco use can both be facilitated by telemedical technology. Telemedicine can be used to connect health care providers with their patients in order to efficiently reach their health goals.
Assisted Living Center Care
Health problems at assisted living centers or retirement homes often occur at night or on weekends, which can make hospitalization the only option, even if the problem is not actually urgent. The use of telemedicine can allow on-call doctors to conduct remote visits to determine whether a hospital visit is necessary.
Advantages of Telemedicine
Reducing the cost of health care is one of the primary reasons for the adoption of telehealth services. Telemedicine reduces the cost of health care by increasing the efficiency of practices and hospitals through better management of chronic diseases and a reduced amount of hospital stays. In fact, recently, the American Hospital Association reported that their telemedicine program saved 11% in costs and boosted doctors’ revenue.
Extended Specialist Reach
In the United States, for every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available. These patients experience significantly longer appointment commutes and difficulty with accessing consultations or care plans for chronic diseases. With telemedical technology, patients in rural communities can have quicker and more convenient access to medical specialists.
Increased Patient Engagement
Not only do virtual visits reassure patients that doctors are involved in their care, it makes it easier for patients to reach out to their health care providers to ask questions, report early warning signs, and make follow-up appointments. The engagement of patients through telehealth/medicine helps them maintain appointments and healthy lifestyle choices.
Better Patient Care Quality
Studies have consistently proven that the quality of health care provided through telemedicine matches the quality provided by traditional health care services. In some specialties—especially mental health—telemedicine can actually produce superior patient care quality. A recent study has shown that telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, stress, and have 38% fewer hospital admissions.
While telehealth still has some limitations, many health care providers are constantly innovating to improve their patients’ access to quality health care. With the benefits of convenient appointments, increased access to medical specialists, and better patient care quality, telemedicine is the way of the future.