Did you know that there are different types of telemedicine? That’s right, there are a few different ways that healthcare systems can use telemedicine to assist patients. As discussed in previous articles, telemedicine is the method of using telecommunications to connect patients and providers over a distance. Today, there are three different types of telemedicine used and it includes the following:
“Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status,” the ATA writes. “Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, e-mail, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.”
Increased access: Patients in rural areas can obtain specialty services, such a mental health treatment or post-surgery follow up, that they otherwise might not get without traveling a large distance for an in-person visit. Similarly, patients who live in federally designated, underserved areas have increased access to primary, dental and mental healthcare.
Projections for the growth of the telehealth market are optimistic, and much of this optimism is predicated upon the increasing demand for remote medical care. According to a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers say they would use telehealth. At present, several major companies along with a bevvy of startups are working to develop a leading presence in the field.
In many Walmart stores, retail consumers can walk up to a kiosk for a doctor consultation. The doctor is not physically present inside the store. Instead, the customer uses a touchscreen computer to type in their symptoms and enter a virtual waiting room. They are then connected by a video link to a doctor. This use-case is HIPAA-compliant because the video link is encrypted to protect patient health information.
In addition to medical assistance, there are psychologists and psychiatrists you can schedule appointments with for online therapy. They treat depression, additions, social anxiety, trauma and workplace stress as well as social issues. Like the doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Doctor on Demand provides an online assessment to help you determine if you could benefit from telepsychology.
One of the biggest advantages of telehealth services is easy access to on-demand care. During a telemedicine consultation, a physician can inquire about symptoms, discuss treatment and determine whether a prescription is necessary. More importantly, for patients who don’t have a reliable means of transportation or who struggle with mobility challenges or disabilities that make traveling difficult, remote access can be a huge quality of life improvement. This is especially true for those living with chronic conditions for which frequent checkups are necessary. Telehealth services are also helping to fill healthcare gaps faced by rural communities across the United States — in areas where patients may have to drive for hours to get to the nearest hospital or specialist.
In developed countries, health promotion efforts using telehealth have been met with some success. The Australian hands-free breastfeeding Google Glass application reported promising results in 2014. This application made in collaboration with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and a tech startup called Small World Social, helped new mothers learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is beneficial to infant health and maternal health and is recommended by the World Health Organisation and health organisations all over the world. Widespread breastfeeding can prevent 820,000 infant deaths globally but the practice is often stopped prematurely or intents to do are disrupted due to lack of social support, know-how or other factors. This application gave mother's hands-free information on breastfeeding, instructions on how to breastfeed and also had an option to call a lactation consultant over Google Hangout. When the trial ended, all participants were reported to be confident in breastfeeding.
Telemedicine is a significant and rapidly growing component of health care in the United States. There are currently about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the US. Nearly 1 million Americans are currently using remote cardiac monitors and in 2011, the Veterans Health Administration delivered over 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine. Over half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine. Around the world, millions of patients use telemedicine to monitor their vital signs, remain healthy and out of hospitals and emergency rooms. Consumers and physicians download health and wellness applications for use on their cell phones.
“Telemedicine is the natural evolution of healthcare in the digital world,” American Telemedicine Association. Telemedicine empowers the caregivers to remotely interact with their patients, which greatly improves both the efficiency and affordability of healthcare. Today patients, doctors and caregivers have learned to accept telemedicine (often called ‘telehealth’ or ‘connected health’) as one of many ways of delivering care.
In Pakistan three pilot projects in telemedicine was initiated by the Ministry of IT & Telecom, Government of Pakistan (MoIT) through the Electronic Government Directorate in collaboration with Oratier Technologies (a pioneer company within Pakistan dealing with healthcare and HMIS) and PakDataCom (a bandwidth provider). Three hub stations through were linked via the Pak Sat-I communications satellite, and four districts were linked with another hub. A 312 Kb link was also established with remote sites and 1 Mbit/s bandwidth was provided at each hub. Three hubs were established: the Mayo Hospital (the largest hospital in Asia), JPMC Karachi and Holy Family Rawalpindi. These 12 remote sites were connected and on average of 1,500 patients being treated per month per hub. The project was still running smoothly after two years.
It’s also important to note that many doctors using telemedicine will charge the patient a convenience fee, ranging from $35 – $125 per visit. This fee is direct from the patient and is on top of (or in place of) any reimbursement through a payer. While that means patients are paying out-of-pocket, many of eVisit’s clients have found patients don’t mind, and in fact are happy to pay the additional fee for the convenience.
Bluetooth Wireless: Bluetooth refers to an industrial specification that applies to wireless area networks. Bluetooth technology offers a way of connecting and exchanging information between devices, including laptops, mobile phones, PCs, video game consoles, digital cameras and printers over a globally unlicensed and secure short-range radio frequency. The Bluetooth Special Interest Groups has developed and licensed the Bluetooth specifications.
In the future, experts say, internet-connected sensors—such as blood pressure monitors—could be paired with e-visits to help people manage chronic conditions from home. So far, such devices aren't widely used. But the list of conditions that patients and doctors can manage remotely is “ever expanding,” says Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute.