Store-and-forward is the oldest form of telehealth technology. It refers to the transmission of images or information from one provider to another. For example, if your doctor sends digital images of an x-ray to a radiologist for analysis, they are leveraging store-and-forward telehealth technology. This is one of the most common uses, but images and information of any type can be transmitted in this matter. One thing we should point out, however, is that store-and-forward telehealth is not always covered by state telemedicine reimbursement laws, even in states that require parity for real-time communication.
Because of telemedicine, patients who previously had limited access to health care services can now see a physician without leaving their home. Seniors who would prefer to age in place can now do so with the use of medical streaming devices. The spread of disease is reduced as individuals with contagious diseases don’t have to expose it to others in crowded waiting rooms.
Through its agreements with insurers, Doctor On Demand stipulates what kinds of conditions its video consultations can cover, and which ailments and maladies require immediate medical attention. Increasingly, customers are taking advantage of the company’s mental health services — an area that’s grown 240 percent since it was introduced, according to Ferguson.
The company has made seven acquisitions: Consult A Doctor for $16.6 million cash in August 2013; AmeriDoc for $17.2 million in May 2014; and BetterHelp for $3.5 million in cash and a $1.0 million promissory note in January 2015. The company also announced and closed the acquisition of HealthiestYou in July 2016. Stat Health Services, Inc. (StatDoc) for $30.1 million, $13.3 million of cash and $16.8 million of Teladoc common stock (or 1,051,033 shares), net of cash acquired in June 2015 ; and HealthiestYou for $45 million in cash and 6.96 million shares of Teladoc's common stock in June 2016. In 2017, the company purchased Best Doctors, Inc., a provider of medical second opinions and a "pay-to-play" medical award listing. Most recently, Teladoc has acquired Advance Medical for $352 million. Advance Medical is a telemedicine company which has locations in Chile, Spain, and parts of Asia. It runs a virtual doctor service, called Global Care on Demand, which offers access to medical advice by phone or video by doctors located in eight main hubs around the world who speak more than 20 languages, and is targeted at expatriates.
The telemedicine foundation is quickly being built. But what do patients think about telemedicine? Are they ready to try it? Recent studies show that a majority of patients are interested in using telehealth services, especially once they see how it works and the potential benefits for them. NTT Data found 74% of surveyed US patients were open to using telemedicine services, and were comfortable communicating with their doctors via technology. 67% said telemedicine at least somewhat increases their satisfaction with medical care.
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.
Teladoc provides access to board-certified, state-licensed physicians 24 hours a day for non-emergency medical issues such as allergies, bronchitis, pink eye, sinus problems, and ear infection via audio-video technology for consultations regarding medical advice, diagnoses and basic prescription medications. The company bills itself as a telehealth provider due to its function of facilitating "remote house calls by primary care doctors". However, United States Department of Health and Human Services states that the term telehealth covers a broader range including "non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education" and that the term telemedicine means "remote clinical services". Its competitors include PlushCare, American Well, MDLIVE Inc., Doctor On Demand, and Carena.
Telepharmacy is the delivery of pharmaceutical care via telecommunications to patients in locations where they may not have direct contact with a pharmacist. It is an instance of the wider phenomenon of telemedicine, as implemented in the field of pharmacy. Telepharmacy services include drug therapy monitoring, patient counseling, prior authorization and refill authorization for prescription drugs, and monitoring of formulary compliance with the aid of teleconferencing or videoconferencing. Remote dispensing of medications by automated packaging and labeling systems can also be thought of as an instance of telepharmacy. Telepharmacy services can be delivered at retail pharmacy sites or through hospitals, nursing homes, or other medical care facilities.
Monitoring center links are used for one type of telemedicine – remote patient monitoring. This type of telemedicine link creates a digital connection between a patient’s house and a remote monitoring facility, so that a patient’s medical data can be measured at home and transmitted electronically to a distant medical monitoring facility. These links usually take the form of internet, SMS, or telephone connections. They’re most commonly used for monitoring of pulmonary, cardiac, or fetal medical data.
I'm a former scientist, using words and an audio recorder as my new research tools to untangle the health and food issues that matter most to consumers. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I cook as much as possible. You can find me in the grocery aisle scrutinizing the fine print of every food item I put into my cart. Follow me on Twitter @juliacalderone.