Emerging Technology: Telemedicine ExplainedIn the past hundred years, technology has rapidly changed the way people approach many facets of life. From communicating ideas to buying and selling goods to finding a partner, technology has changed the way people go about their business.
One aspect of life that has also been greatly changed by technology is healthcare. Telemedicine, telehealth, and health information technology (HIT) refer to the ways in which technology and healthcare are joined.
This post will focus specifically on telemedicine, though all of these terms are related.
What is Telemedicine?Telemedicine refers to providing health care services remotely via technology. Examples of telemedicine include:
- Video conferencing between patients and healthcare providers as a form of consultation and to obtain a referral.
- Nursing call centers.
- Sending still images and videos via the internet.
- Patient portals for independent monitoring their own health.
- Remotely tracking vital signs.
- Online discussion groups for specialized conditions, providing access to information in a group setting.
How Does Telemedicine Work?Telemedicine relies on technology to function effectively and provide useful, remote healthcare. Examples of telemedicine information delivery systems are listed below.
- Point-to-Point Connections: This type of service is especially common for outsourcing assessment for radiology, mental health, stroke, and intensive care reports. Point-to-point connections are made via private, high-speed connections that link the point-of-contact healthcare provider with private medical service providers that provide nearly instantaneous feedback.
- Monitoring Center Links: These links are used for at-home monitoring of fetal, cardiac, and pulmonary conditions. Most links are established through land-line or wireless connections.
- Networked Programs: Networks that connect centralized hospitals and clinics with periphery medical care providers give patients in rural areas access to a wider range of healthcare options. Networked programs that link centralized with peripheral hospitals are conducted either through private high-speed lines or through the internet at large. In the U.S. alone there are over 200 networked programs connecting patients in these programs to 3,000 different healthcare sites.
- E-Health Patient Services: Conducted over the internet, e-health patient service portals give patients direct access to physicians. These services are rendered for patients with a variety of conditions, though they are most commonly employed for direct outpatient care. One of the latest uses of telemedicine for e-health patient services is the purchase of vitamin injections (specifically vitamin B12 shots).
Benefits of TelemedicineTelemedicine is beneficial for patients, healthcare providers, and the medical community at large. If you have been to a doctor in the last forty years, chances are you have benefitted from telemedicine. Some of the most notable benefits include:
- Telemedicine meets patient demand without the added stress of going to a doctor’s office. Patients often hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment because they know that getting an appointment could take months. Plus, going to the doctor’s office is often time-consuming and stressful. However, with telemedicine, patients do not have to travel to see a doctor and they can see a healthcare provider sooner than they would otherwise.
- Telemedicine improves access for patients and medical researchers. Thanks to telemedicine, patients in rural areas have more and better access to medicine than ever before. For example, before telemedicine a person living in a rural area with pernicious anemia may not realize why they feel so tired all the time, and they would be unlikely to see a doctor to talk about their condition. However, now that video conferencing and sharing blood results online is possible, that person is more likely to speak with a specialist and purchase the vitamin B12 injections he or she needs to feel well again, regardless of where he or she lives. Researchers also have better access to research opportunities given the larger sample sizes offered by telemedicine records.
- Telemedicine is more efficient. One of the main goals of telemedicine is to make the cost of healthcare reasonable. As a result, travel and wait times are shorter with telemedicine, hospital stays are shorter, and chronic diseases are better understood and therefore better managed.
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