Humans have always shown a tendency to evolve in perilous times specifically. Whether through unique inventions or by innovative concepts, humans have shown their strong will power to survive and adapt in any type of scenario.
As the world tackled the pandemic with many difficulties in the past year, though not an entirely new field, Telemedicine showed its great potential with new innovative concepts merged into it.
So, what does this field of Telemedicine entails?
What is Telemedicine?
To put it simply, Telemedicine is a tool that allows patients to communicate with a healthcare provider, normally a certified doctor, using technology from anywhere in the world as opposed to physically paying a visit to that doctor’s office.
With a history spanning over 40 years, Telemedicine has been a rapidly growing field. Normally getting an appointment with primary care doctors can prove to be quite an arduous task. The waiting list for the appointment may take several hours long and even getting a referral does not always guarantee a quick appointment from famous specialists. All these issues can now be tackled easily with Telemedicine as it helps in bringing patients and the doctor together more efficiently.
With the help of telemedicine, people can easily discuss symptoms, medical issues, and more with their preferred specialist in real-time either by using video, online portals, or email. It allows patients the facility to receive a proper diagnosis, learn their treatment options, and get the required prescription.
Is Telemedicine Different than Telehealth?
With so many interrelated fields always merging like mobile health, health IT, telemedicine and constantly changing with innovations, it’s sometimes difficult to get a proper definition for these terms.
In the healthcare industry, often the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are used interchangeably. That’s not surprising in the least as the telehealth and telemedicine definitions cover roughly very similar services, consisting of medical education, e-health patient monitoring, patient consultation via video conferencing, the transmission of image medical reports, among other things.
Telemedicine can be described as a subset of telehealth. On one hand, telehealth comes up as a broad term that consists of all health services provided using telecommunications technology, on the other hand, telemedicine caters specifically to clinical services.
Telehealth can be best defined as a collection of methods used for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.
How does Telemedicine Works?
Telemedicine doesn’t provide emergency services like in the case of heart attack or stroke, cuts, or broken bones requiring X-rays, splints, or casts. Anything related to immediate care should be handled in person. However, telemedicine provides useful solutions for solving simple issues and for follow-up consultations.
Let’s understand it better with the help of real-life examples, if a person suspects cut to be infected, they can schedule a virtual consultation with their preferred healthcare provider to discuss the symptoms.
In another situation, if the person is on vacation and thinks he’s coming down with strep throat, he can use telemedicine to communicate with his primary care physician.
Pros of Telemedicine
Beneficial to Providers: Technologies integrated with telemedicine software like electronic medical records, AI diagnosis, etc, can provide better assistance to the providers in diagnosis and treatment. Technology also allows providers to monitor patients in real-time and helps in adjusting treatment plans when necessary. Ultimately, this leads to better patient results.
By leveraging telemedicine, physicians can now see and provide better consultations by more patients without the need to hire more staff.
Beneficial to Patients: Previously, Patients had limited access to health care services but now can have access to see a physician without leaving their home. This also helps in putting a stop to the spread of disease as individuals with contagious diseases don’t have to expose it to others in crowded waiting rooms.
Cost-Effective: Since it is still a growing field, normally the cost per treatment is cheaper compared to a physical consultation. As technology continues to advance, cost savings will become more visible soon.
Cons of Telemedicine
Unclear Policies: With the technology advancing at such a fast pace, it’s been difficult for policymakers to keep pace with the industry. Uncertainty regarding certain matters still persist like for reimbursement policies, or privacy protection, or healthcare laws. Also, telemedicine laws vary from state to state.
Technology is Expensive: Healthcare systems adopting telemedicine solutions can give their testaments that it requires a lot of time and money. Implementing a new system always requires a lot of training and oftentimes staff members find it difficult to welcome this change. Practice managers, nurses, physicians, and others related to healthcare services have to re-learn many things and how to better utilize the system to reap better results.
Fewer Face-to-Face Consultations: Adapting to new technology is no easy feat. Several physicians and patients find it difficult to adapt to telemedicine, especially seasoned workers and older adults. Though the advances in medicine have made the task of learning more efficient to use technology, we often come across times when system outages occur. The potential for error is ever-present as technology cannot always capture what the human touch can.