Telemedicine has seen growth in being introduced to healthcare systems, especially during the pandemic. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 37% of adults in the US will have used telemedicine in 2021. However, this number spiked out of nowhere in 2020, and since then, more telehealth practices have been included in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Telemedicine revolves around a health provider who takes care of patients remotely, usually from the comfort of their homes. By using compliant video-conferencing tools and devices, doctors can diagnose and make observations regarding someone’s condition. Of course, this doesn’t apply to more severe illnesses, which require in-person control, but this is a perfect approach for people who can’t get to a medical facility for a regular check-up.
Telemedicine helps digitize the doctor-patient relationship
Telemedicine technology provides an array of devices that can be attached to the patient’s body in order to measure vital signs and automatically send this data to the healthcare provider. For example, some of the most common devices used include the following:
- Blood pressure cuffs measure changes in the artery motion to help calculate the patient’s heart rate and blood flow;
- A glucometer monitors the patient’s blood sugar and sends the final report in real time for the doctor to review;
- A pulse oximeter is attached to the finger and can measure the blood oxygen level and also the pulse;
- Wearable devices are commonly used to track steps, heart rate, fall risk and even sleep to help understand how daily activities affect a patient’s condition;
- Bluetooth devices, such as a thermometer or a scale, provide fast and accurate insight into the patient’s health status;
Telemedicine enhances collaboration among doctors
During critical times when the patient’s life is at risk, doctors and health providers must collaborate perfectly to ensure they save a life and provide the best practices. Therefore, telemedicine offers AI and edge-powered technology so that remote telehealth and telemedicine solutions for communication and monitoring are possible fast and easily. For example, some facilities have advanced telemedicine software through which doctors who monitor patients with infectious diseases, pulmonology, critical care and nephrology can avoid risking transmission but still provide the best care.
Collaborative practices help medical specialists increase the efficiency with which patients are nursed. So, telemedicine can:
- Improve communication between a hospital’s team and also between doctors and patients;
- Address delivery gaps and cross the geographic accessibility issue;
- Decrease the risk of health service fragmentation, which is quite common;
- Minimize cases of unnecessary patient transportation;
- Provide flexibility and adaptability to different clinical specialties;
Telemedicine pursues the importance of preventive medicine
Preventive medicine is highly underrated between patients and medical providers too. Although it doesn’t always require complicated tasks, simple things such as hand washing, immunizations, and preventive medicine should be considered essential in maintaining good health. With telemedicine, this can be possible since doctors can easily prescribe preventive drugs through video conferences.
In some cases, when there are obvious signs of migraine, diabetes or asthma, it is easier for healthcare providers to prescribe preventive drugs, which can minimize the costs of medical control and also help patients get a diagnosis faster.
Preventive medicine is best for people from rural areas who are usually more prone to heart disease and at greater risk of obesity and diabetes. Many factors contribute to this occurrence, such as the fact that some rural areas are isolated and far away from a city provided with a hospital.
Telemedicine helps cut costs
Given that it’s done remotely, telemedicine can help cut many costs to customers and healthcare institutions as well by:
- Reducing the number of Accident and Emergency (A&E) admissions;
- Eliminating travel costs for doctors and patients;
- Minimizing hospital readmissions;
These elements can highly benefit a healthcare facility because they can help increase employee productivity since management can focus on improving resources, devices and approaches while making doctors’ work more manageable.
At the same time, these telehealth visits allow patients to access specialist care more easily since providers can transfer essential documentation and travel when necessary, which is better than employing doctors on a full contract when there’s less demand for certain health conditions.
The challenges of telemedicine
Like any other sector, telemedicine also faces shortages and difficulties that can be changed. These approaches are still not fully regulated, which creates a lot of confusion when it comes to applying telemedicine in a rural setting, for example. Healthcare providers might be required to get a conditional license to practice telemedicine in another state in case they might have to move, and the limits on telemedicine-related licenses are a real problem.
At the same time, some doctors cannot introduce telemedicine into their practices due to provider reimbursement and insurance coverage programs. That’s because these companies cover the most common types of services, but their requirements on the services’ originating sites are pretty strict. For example, they don’t include a patient’s home as a site, which makes it more challenging for people from rural areas to get proper consultation services.
There’s also the need for more trained specialists to adapt to new technologies and practices for their consultations to flow. This can decrease the staffing requirements so that more patients can have their condition tracked and more consultations can be made in a day, but this has yet to happen because, in some regions, healthcare providers are not offered any devices and are still working with paper documents. The final problem of telemedicine is that, in some areas, telecommunication technology is poorly provided, requiring patients to get someone with a device that allows for video conferencing or get one themselves. At the same time, the internet connection isn’t always stable, and it can go down at any minute, especially in bad weather, which can represent a problem for certain patients who can’t get a good connection.
Telemedicine has the potential to save the lives of many by providing time and minimizing financial resources to both clients and healthcare providers. However, it still lacks development and vision, but hopefully, this will change in the future.