Telemedicine, a new emerging method in healthcare that has replaced the conventional way of how patients are accessing medical care today.
Healthcare is evolving and we are evolving right along with it, just like nature intended. The way healthcare is practiced today has taken on new variations thanks to telemedicine and technological advances that have rapidly progressed over the last decade. Experts in the healthcare industry are calling this new method of providing remote medical care extraordinary. They are predicting further progress and options being available for patient and provider in the near future which will transform the industry as we know it. Clinicians and other medical professionals are also hopeful this new way of practicing medicine nationwide will modernize the healthcare industry forever.
Let us first define the meaning of Telehealth and Telemedicine as most are not familiar with these new terms.
Telehealth is a term for accessing clinical and non-clinical services available remotely to patients, administrators and medical care professionals. It’s a much broader term and is a collection of services rather than a specific service. It includes trainers working in the medical field such as administrative staff, educators, meeting facilitators and of course clinicians. Basically, it’s the use of technology and electronic information that supports healthcare professionals in providing long distance clinical care to their patients without an acutal visit to the medical facility. Facilities could include a private medical office, a hospitals, ambulatory care, urgent care and even nursing homes. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
Telemedicine is the new ground-breaking method healthcare professionals are using to provide quality medical care services to their patients. It’s the latest trend in healthcare that’s here to stay with additional options that will be available in the future. A new way of treating and diagnosing patients remotely while in the comfort of their own home. Patients will be able to remotely access medical care services without leaving their living room. Timely visits to the doctor, with no wait times is huge for patients visiting multiple doctors on the same day. Evaluations, follow up visits and other necessary appointments will no longer be performed in a doctor’s office but in your own home.
3 TYPES OF TELEMEDICINE:
Store & Forward (S&P):
This type of telemedicine service provides the patient’s healthcare data as well as images to a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and a plan of care or treatment. This would apply for services such as Radiology and Dermatology for example that rely solely on diagnosing the patient using digital images. This type of service is also referred to a asynchronous telemedicine.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM):
Remote Patient Monitoring is technology currently used to monitor patients outside a healthcare facility, for example a hospital bed. RPM allows the medical care provider to monitor patients that are in critical conditions in their own home with live data being delivered directly to the physician for continues observation of the patients’ vital signs. Monitoring devices would include glucose meters for patients suffering with diabetes and heart or blood pressure monitors for patients receiving cardiac care. There are other forms of care currently provided remotely that’s offered by private doctors, hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
This third and last type of telemedicine service provides real time (live) access to your medical care professionals. Technology is utilized to communicate with patients face to face using video conferencing. If you’ve used Skype in the past, you’ll have no problem. Complete evaluations, assessments and visual examinations can now be done using real-time medicine.
Let us look into how effectively the healthcare industry has progressed as a direct result of telemedicine, nationwide and now globally.
Technology and digital data/images have played a major role in this new modernization in healthcare, thanks to the new method of telemedicine. Many hospitals and healthcare systems across the country have been actively practicing telemedicine with positive results including one of the major hospitals in New York.
NY Presbyterian Hospital is just one of the major hospitals in New York that provides various services that include using telemedicine as a way of providing enhanced medical care. They launched their NYP OnDemand suite in 2014, providing quality medical services within their digital health platform with potential expansions in the future. Services including Mental Health, Digital Emergency and Urgent Care, Pediatric Care, Dermatology, Digital Second Opinion, Neurology and numerous other specialty services that most patients use today are offered using telemedicine.
In addition to providing medical care, telemedicine has made it easier for real-time peer-to-peer physician consultations to take place with less time being spent on travel. Physicians that are currently working within the nine hospitals that are part of the NewYork-Presbyterian system are able to communicate with each other using this system. Time is saved in travel which is then dedicated to providing patient care. It’s also a great educational opportunity for their peers who normally would not be able to set time aside because of their limited schedules. A win win situation for everyone.
Veterans Health Administration begun utilizing telemedicine and the results are positive according to Becker Hospital Review. They have combined “remote patient monitoring, health informatics and disease management technology to improve care for patients with six chronic conditions ranging from depression to diabetes. In addition to high patient satisfaction scores, the program also achieved a 25 percent drop in bed-days of care and a 19 percent reduction in hospital admissions as compared to traditional care.”
Currently, telemedicine has provided access to healthcare for millions of Americans while keeping costs down. Doctors are remotely capable of monitoring their patients from around the world without having a face to face visit. Telemedicine has allowed it to become the standard way of providing medical care to millions no matter where they are.
Real-time medical care will include the use of technology to provide medical services for patients who are unable to travel or are confined to a bed. Patients can now access services during off peak hours which is a treat all on it’s own. The remote transmission of data/images as well as being able to observe the patient that is a distance away will make healthcare more accessible for everyone no matter where they are. Doctors will be provided with real-time metric measures on their patients helping in providing quality care. Patient with critical conditions will have systems in place to send out alerts to clinicians in the event a patient has a serious emergency and needs assistance.
Emergency circumstances such as heart attacks, strokes or other life threatening events will now be monitored live and appropriate emergency services will be notified timely. A great help in increasing the patients’ chances of surviving a heart attack or a stroke. Every minute in a crisis situation is vital. Notifying 911 automatically once any sign of life threatening symptoms occurs will be called in immediately.
International visits to doctors and specialists will contribute to a huge decrease in unnecessary travel. An expensive and difficult trip for many patients especially when traveling great distances. Educational opportunities from around the world will be widely available to doctors and other healthcare providers seeking to learn how other countries have incorporated telemedicine into their healthcare system and what works best for them. International relationships will be built and healthcare will continue to grow and improve.
Diagnostic data will be visible online for all the medical professionals as well as patients to view in real time. It was all made possible when EMR (Electronic Medical Records) were mandated back in 2013, another step up in the healthcare industry. Real-time patient data will be available to view, again helping with the quality care everyone is aiming for. According to the National Broadband Plan drafted earlier this year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the use of remote patient monitoring technology in conjunction with electronic health records (EHR) could save the health care industry $700 billion over 15 to 20 years.
According to Becker Hospital Review, “About 13 percent of all intensive care unit beds in the country are supported by tele-ICU technology. At the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, having trained intensivists provide ICU care remotely resulted in a 20 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent drop in lengths of stay and reductions in care costs.”
We can expect to see many more technological advances in telemedicine in the next few years to come. Including updated mobile phones, home computers and other devices necessary to provide quality healthcare remotely. Home devices such as Diabetes measuring machine, heart monitors and respiratory devices are just to name a few.
Telemedicine will allow patients to update their way of life. Patients of all ages are proactively learning how to access telemedicine with their home computers and mobile phones. Utilizing apps that have become available for use in the telemedicine world. Patients and providers are becoming more knowledgeable with computers and other technological devices as it has become a necessity today.
Private insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid have made progress in the last few years with telemedicine emerging in everywhere. Medicare has been slow but they too updated their policies in order to accommodate more physicians that practice telemedicine. In return, inspiring other doctors and hospital facilities to provide telemedicine services to their patients too. According to Information Week, “Medicare has been slower to change reimbursement policies to accommodate telemedicine care, private insurers and state Medicaid payers have been more progressive in covering many services, and that’s pushing more doctors and hospitals to provide them”
Overall, this is exciting news for so many patients who’ve struggled over the years to find quality medical care or even access to medical care at all. Great news for medical care providers such as doctors who now have the time to dedicate to their patients. Telehealth and telemedicine is bringing many positive changes to the healthcare industry; it has helped us evolve which was long overdue.
By: Ida L.