What is Telemedicine And How It Works?

What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

From better medications to advanced technological devices, the health sector is growing continuously. Among these advances in healthcare, one is telemedicine. From what does telemedicine mean to how telemedicine revolutionized the healthcare system; you’ll know everything about it in this article. 

What is telemedicine?

According to the World Health Organization, the term telemedicine stands for “healing at a distance.” It refers to the process by which a healthcare provider connects with a patient remotely for a consultation session and medical assistance. The telemedicine appointment is done online and is convenient and cost-effective for patients. This helps the patients to get medical assistance anywhere and anytime. What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

How is telemedicine different from telehealth? What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

Although these two terms are often considered the same and are used interchangeably, but these are different. Telemedicine is a service that allows patients to access a health care provider without visiting a hospital. This service includes remote clinical services, consultation sessions, and medical diagnosis of different diseases.

But telehealth is not a service. It corresponds to different techniques that aim to improve patient’s health and educate patients for this purpose. Moreover, unlike telemedicine, telehealth also includes non-clinical healthcare aspects such as administrative meetings, continuing medical education (CME), and healthcare providers’ training.

According to HealthIT.gov, telehealth is “the utilization of the electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance health care, patient and professional education, public health and health administration.”

Telehealth can be considered a broader term. Telemedicine come under the flagship of telehealth.

History of telemedicine

Telemedicine may seem a new practice, but it is not. The service was initiated in the 19th century to facilitate patients residing in rural areas with less or no health care facilities. It started with the development of telecommunications technology, which helped connect physicians with patients via telegraph, telephone, and radio. In 1879, the telephone’s importance in reducing clinic visits was highlighted by a Lancet report.

In 1925, Science and invention magazine reported an invention by Dr. Hugo Gernsback known as teledactyl. Gernsback said that this sensory feedback device would help the healthcare professionals to connect with the patients via a television screen. Moreover, the robotic arms will enable them to touch their patients at distant locations. In 1948, in Pennsylvania, the first radiologic images were exchanged between two health centers 24 miles apart. Later, professionals at the University of Nebraska transmitted medical examinations to the medical students via a two-way interactive television. After five years, a closed-circuit television link was introduced that enabled healthcare professionals to provide consultations 112 miles away at Norfolk State Hospital.

Today, the rapid telemedicine development due to technology indicates that we are close to the future where telemedicine will be a potent element in healthcare.

Types of telemedicine services

Ever wondered what different types of services telemedicine provides? Telemedicine is a comprehensive service that is a collection of various services. At present, there are three types of telemedicine services:

  1. Remote patient monitoring
  2. Real-time telehealth or synchronous telemedicine
  3. Store and forward or asynchronous telemedicine

What is remote patient monitoring telemedicine?

It is sometimes also known as telemonitoring or home telehealth. It allows healthcare professionals to regularly record the patient’s vitals and other health conditions remotely. It’s helpful in the chronic health conditions that can lead to complications without regular monitoring or follow-up visits to the doctor’s office.

For example, a patient with a blood pressure meter at home can regularly check his blood pressure. He can send the results to his doctor for a checkup. After assessing the patient’s condition, the doctor may change his medication, advise him of some lifestyle changes, or call in if the blood levels are dangerously high. This helps the patient to have a quick, better, and cheaper regular assessment at home.

What is synchronous telemedicine?

Real time or synchronous telemedicine is the first type that pops up in mind whenever someone hears “telemedicine.” It is a real-time interaction between healthcare professionals and the patient, It involves both phone consultations and video sessions as well for better medical assistance, It helps doctors and patients to see and talk to each other and is a great alternative to the in-person doctor’s visit. It’s also known as live telemedicine.

What is asynchronous telemedicine?

Store and forward or asynchronous telemedicine allows the healthcare providers to forward and share patients’ medical reports (lab reports, images, videos, etc.) with a physician residing at a different location. This is done by an email platform that helps share patients’ data with a doctor in a secure way.

This doesn’t force the patient, doctor, and specialist to communicate simultaneously (as in synchronous telemedicine).

How does telemedicine work? 

Now you know what telemedicine is and what are the different types of telemedicine services. And you’ll be wondering how telemedicine works. Well, it depends upon your doctor too that which type of service he offers. But the most common ways are:

A patient portal- With complete security of your personal information, a patient portal helps communicate with the doctors or nurses via emails. You can share your medical reports and ask for consultancy. This enables you to get appointments, medication, consultancy, and prescription refills more quickly than a telephone call.

Virtual appointments- Some doctors prefer to give appointments through phone or video calls. Virtual telemedicine allows you to access different professionals for various health conditions.

This is how telemedicine works. But you must acknowledge the fact that telemedicine can’t replace in person doctor’s visits. If you feel some severe symptoms of chronic health conditions or have some emergency, then a doctor’s telemedicine appointment won’t work for you. You must get yourself thoroughly checked at the doctor’s office to avoid any complications in such a situation.

What are the benefits/applications of telemedicine in healthcare?

Telemedicine, through different telemedicine software, greatly benefits the healthcare system. Both the patient and the healthcare professionals get many benefits due to telemedicine technology. Some of the applications/benefits of telemedicine in healthcare are below:

  • Helps in better assessment 

Telemedicine helps healthcare professionals to assess your condition better as they can see your home environment this way. This provides them a better understanding of your health conditions. For example, allergists can better tell you the cause of your allergy by finding clues of allergic substances in your surroundings. Similarly, mental health assessment and counseling are possible in a better way through telemedicine.

  • Reduces the financial burden on patients 

By accessing the physician through telemedicine helps reduce the burden of hospital visits. According to a 2017 report, the median cost for a telemedicine visit is $79. But the median doctor’s visit cost is $149, and the average cost for an emergency room visit is $1,734. Therefore, the implementation of telemedicine technology can reduce the financial burden for healthcare services.

  • Provides better primary care for sustainable health 

Regular consultancy sessions with a doctor can save you from many severe health conditions. Your lifestyle is a potent factor in determining your overall health status. By having regular discussions about your lifestyle changes with your doctor, you can adopt healthy lifestyle habits for sustainable health.

  • Allows to check medication adherence

Medication adherence determines if the patients are taking the prescribed medicines as per prescription or not. It is a key factor in combating diseases. Most patients don’t make time for fellow up visits due to a busy schedule or other reasons. As a result, healthcare professionals remain unaware of medication adherence status. Patients can easily connect with the doctor through telemedicine, making it easier for the doctor to assess medication effectiveness and side effects.

This is particularly helpful for senior patients who often forget to take their medicines as prescribed. Moreover, reports say that about 29% of the adults in the United States didn’t take the prescribed medication due to the financial burden as they couldn’t afford them. In such situations, doctors can help patients with alternative medicines.

  • Useful in chronic diseases management 

Chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.) are the significant cause of deaths in the United States. Due to these diseases, the healthcare care system in the United States faces a cost of $3.7 trillion every year. Telemedicine can save the healthcare system from the financial costs and patients from the complications of these diseases.

If these diseases are monitored regularly with a healthy lifestyle, then they can even be prevented. If the person gets the disease and regularly monitors and consults with the doctor, the chances of recovery are much higher. Because the longer a person lives with a chronic condition, the more difficult it becomes to treat.

  • Saves time of follow up visits 

Regular follow-up visits are essential even if you are healthy. But, one of the significant factors due to which people avoid them is the time. They don’t have time to wait for their turn for a routine checkup. Telemedicine provides patients the comfort and convenience to access healthcare professionals without visiting their clinics. When the follow-up visits increase, the disease ratio decreases, helping both the patient and the healthcare system. 

Covid-19 and telemedicine: Why telemedicine is important in COVID-19 crises?

COVID-19 is a challenging situation that the healthcare system is facing thought the world. According to a cost analysis report by FAIR Health, the average treatment costs for one COVID-19 patient without insurance or with an out-of-network facility ranges from $51,389 to $78,569 for patients between 21-41 years old and 41-60 years old, respectively.

Not only the financial costs, but the chances of getting COVID-19 infection from the hospitals during the follow-up visits can’t be neglected. That’s why telemedicine is gaining popularity in the COVID-19 crises. People want to know how to can use telemedicine devices for better COVID-19 prevention by staying at their homes.

Did you ever wonder what if you get the COVID-19 but consider it a regular cold or flu? You don’t want to visit the doctor to avoid a COVID-19 infection from the hospital. But you’re already living with the deadly condition. Just consider the situation, and you can imagine the possible severe outcomes of this misconception. What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

This is why telemedicine is essential today. If you feel the symptoms, it might be flu or cold; but you can immediately consult your doctor to clear any doubt. This will save you from visiting the hospital but will provide the consultancy that you will need. If you consult your doctor earlier in the case of COVID-19, you can avoid the possible risks that you may suffer later if it remains undiagnosed.

Health checkup kiosks and telemedicine: How are telemedicine kiosks essential for telemedicine?

Amid the present pandemic situation, the hospitals are the highest infectious places where you can get COVID-19. The financial burden is increasing, and the space in hospitals is being filled up. Therefore, the healthcare system is putting great efforts to provide medical assistance to people from a distance for different diseases and COVID-19.

Telemedicine helps provide quick and reliable health care services to patients without hospital visits. Through telemedicine, you can connect to your doctor and explain your health condition to get better. But he will still need your reports or health data for better assessment. For this purpose, health checkup kiosks play a significant role. What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

Health checkup kiosks allow you to have an assessment of your vitals and other chronic conditions. They are time saving and convenient way for protecting you from complications. They are available at many public places such as in retail clinic, community center, or job site. So, there is no need to visit the hospital. You can check your health status using a health checkup kiosk and can discuss the results in detail via a computer interface of a kiosk.

Why is telemedicine the future of the healthcare industry?

Telemedicine isn’t a new technology, and the use is increasing tremendously. The present pandemic situation has made people aware of why telemedicine is vital for them and the healthcare system. Due to the increasing importance of telemedicine, it’s not a query anymore that why it is the future of the healthcare industry. A few primary reasons for this are: What is Telemedicine And How It Works….

  1. It’s a cost-effective technology.
  2. It’s easily accessible from anywhere, anytime.
  3. Due to the quick and reasonable assessment, the quality is not compromised. Healthcare professionals provide the best possible healthcare services through telehealth devices. The detailed discussion regarding the patient’s condition saves them from the terrible conditions of many diseases.

Due to all this, telemedicine is the future of the healthcare system, if not today but eventually.

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