The rise of Telemedicine
The most impactful innovation in digital health technology is the introduction of telemedicine. As defined by the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status…Videoconferencing, the transmission of still images, e-health, including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.”
The telemedicine system connects primary care physician with the patient from the comfort of their living room. In rural areas, there is a shortage of primary care physicians or specialists; telemedicine gives the rural-patient a chance to connect with the physician and get the help they need. It also reduces the time it takes for a physician to reach to patient’s home or healthcare facility due to traffic, their schedule, and other factors. It usually involves a physician and a patient to connect via video call on their computer or cell phone to monitor and manage the physical and mental health of a patient.
In the initial years, telehealth focused on smaller health issues like flu, rash, cough, colds, and alike, but with the advancements in the field, the system is being used for border applications like changing medication, checking laboratory and imaging results and managing chronic health patients. Telehealth technology helps improve quality of care, decrease costs, and is an efficient way to use the physician’s services.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is growing popularity among physicians and is expected to bloom further in the next few years. RPM is a valuable tool, especially for physicians who care for the elderly and/or chronically ill patients. It makes the patient have a sense of security, knowing that there is a remote system monitoring their vitals and would send an alert to their physician if there is any change. For physicians who are carrying out telemedicine appointments, RPM gives them insights into their patient’s vital status and health conditions from the office.
While telemedicine offers faster healthcare services, it leads to loss of personal touch with the physician. Also, without one-on-one interaction with the patient, there is a chance of misdiagnosis or missing out on a symptom leading to worsening the condition. Furthermore, cybersecurity will be a much bigger concern. As telemedicine requires to keep all the medical records on cloud, in case of a breach, the hackers might temper with the patient’s care. Another major drawback of telemedicine is that not all insurance companies would reimburse for such consultation or services. It is expected that by 2024, all the major insurance companies in the USA will cover telemedicine consultations.
It definitely is amazing to know how the advancements in IT and the digital world can improve the health system.