As technology developed and wired communication became increasingly commonplace, the ideas surrounding telehealth began emerging. The earliest telehealth encounter can be traced to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, when he used his early telephone as a means of getting help from his assistant Mr. Watson after he spilt acid on his trousers. Another instance of early telehealth, specifically telemedicine was reported in The Lancet in 1879. An anonymous writer described a case where a doctor successfully diagnosed a child over the telephone in the middle of the night. This Lancet issue, also further discussed the potential of Remote Patient Care in order to avoid unnecessary house visits, which were part of routine health care during the 1800s. Other instances of telehealth during this period came from the American Civil War, during which telegraphs were used to deliver mortality lists and medical care to soldiers.
In 1967 one of the first telemedicine clinics was founded by Kenneth Bird at Massachusetts General Hospital. The clinic addressed the fundamental problem of delivering occupational and emergency health services to employees and travellers at Boston's Logan International Airport, located three congested miles from the hospital. Over 1,000 patients are documented as having received remote treatment from doctors at MGH using the clinic's two-way audiovisual microwave circuit. The timing of Bird's clinic more or less coincided with NASA's foray into telemedicine through the use of physiologic monitors for astronauts. Other pioneering programs in telemedicine were designed to deliver healthcare services to people in rural settings. The first interactive telemedicine system, operating over standard telephone lines, designed to remotely diagnose and treat patients requiring cardiac resuscitation (defibrillation) was developed and launched by an American company, MedPhone Corporation, in 1989. A year later under the leadership of its President/CEO S Eric Wachtel, MedPhone introduced a mobile cellular version, the MDPhone. Twelve hospitals in the U.S. served as receiving and treatment centers.
As various parties seek more efficient ways to provide care at less cost to the patient, telemedicine's role has grown. It is often a time-saving way for a consumer to see and speak to a clinician for minor and non-urgent medical needs instead of going to a primary care physician's office or emergency department. In recent years, many states have passed laws that make telemedicine easier to practice, and federal health regulators are also exploring ways to further grant Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine services.
Chiron Health believes that the right technology is the key to ensuring both patient satisfaction and provider reimbursement. Our easy-to-use, real-time telehealth solution gives providers the piece of mind that they will be able to deliver top-quality care, while increasing revenues and remaining compliant with HIPAA and other laws and regulations. It is perfectly suited for chronic disease management and follow-up visits.
Although, traditional medicine relies on in-person care, the need and want for remote care has existed from the Roman and pre-Hippocratic periods in antiquity. The elderly and infirm who could not visit temples for medical care sent representatives to convey information on symptoms and bring home a diagnosis as well as treatment. In Africa, villagers would use smoke signals to warn neighbouring villages of disease outbreak. The beginnings of telehealth have existed through primitive forms of communication and technology.
Because of telemedicine, physicians can access patient medical records without being onsite. Some telemedicine providers offer the ability to do data entry using a point-and-click method or video/handwriting recognition. This can cut down on the amount of time that physicians dedicate to administrative tasks. As a result, physicians can see more patients or spend more time with those cases that are more complex.
Telehealth allows the patient to be monitored between physician office visits which can improve patient health. Telehealth also allows patients to access expertise which is not available in their local area. This remote patient monitoring ability enables patients to stay at home longer and helps avoid unnecessary hospital time. In the long-term, this could potentially result in less burdening of the healthcare system and consumption of resources.
Doctor On Demand is one of the best-funded Bay Area digital health companies. The region's top digital health startups pulled in $1.5 billion in 2016. As health care continues finding customers outside hospital walls, the industry has seen even brick-and-mortar providers investing in the tech. Fifty million Americans are now willing to switch doctors if given a video visit option, according to a recent trends report.
The company employs its own doctors and staffs its video consultation service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Ferguson says. Despite the workload — which sees the company’s virtual doctors consult with four patients each hour on average — the company’s 14-day readmission rate (a standard measure of effective diagnoses) is on par with brick and mortar services, Ferguson says.
Not all state and federal agencies define telehealth in exactly the same terms, but most are fairly consistent with the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, which defines telehealth this way, “The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”