Store-and-forward telemedicine works best for interprofessional medical services – where a provider needs to outsource diagnosis to a specialist. For instance, teleradiology relies heavily on store-and-forward technology to allow technicians and healthcare professionals at smaller hospitals to share patient x-rays for diagnosis by a specialist at another location. Asynchronous telemedicine is also commonly used for teledermatology and teleophthalmology.
Like most technology solutions, telemedicine platforms usually require some training and equipment purchases. How much is really dependent on the solution – a more extensive inpatient telemedicine platform that will be used between primary doctors and consulting specialist may require more training and the purchase of a telemedicine cart and various mobile health devices. A secure videochat app like eVisit, requires much less staff training and usually only requires purchase of a webcam.
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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.
“Our executive leadership have been strong supporters of telemedicine at UPMC for more than a decade,” said Sokolovich of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “With the initial success of tele-stroke and tele-behavioral health services, leadership recognizes the potential of telehealth in implementing new models of care that enhance the patient experience, support access to quality care regardless of geographic location, and maximize efficiencies.”
Patient Exam Cameras – These cameras are used to examine the patient’s overall condition. The different types of patient exam cameras are handheld cameras, camcorders, gooseneck cameras and those which may be placed above the set-top units. Analog and digital cameras are available and the ones that should be used depend on the connection to the set-top unit.
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.
Remote Patient Monitoring involves the reporting, collection, transmission, and evaluation of patient health data through electronic devices such as wearables, mobile devices, smartphone apps, and internet-enabled computers. RPM technologies remind patients to weigh themselves and transmit the measurements to their physicians. Wearables and other electronic monitoring devices are being used to collect and transfer vital sign data including blood pressures, cardiac stats, oxygen levels, and respiratory rates.
There are currently 29 states with telemedicine parity laws, which require private payers to reimburse in the same way they would for an in-person visit. As additional states adopt parity laws, private payers may institute more guidelines and restrictions for telemedicine services. Although it’s a step in the right direction, there is still uncertainty regarding reimbursement rates, billing procedures, and more.
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.
“While ‘telemedicine’ has been more commonly used in the past, ‘telehealth’ is a more universal term for the current broad array of applications in the field,” the TRC network states in its online resource guide. “Its use crosses most health service disciplines, including dentistry, counseling, physical therapy and home health, and many other domains. Further, telehealth practice has expanded beyond traditional diagnostic and monitoring activities to include consumer and professional education. Note that while a connection exists between health information technology (HIT), health information exchange (HIE) and telehealth, neither HIE nor HIT are considered to be telehealth.”
Today, 95 percent of Americans own cell phones and 77 percent own smartphones. These and other mobile devices can be leveraged to promote better health outcomes and increased access to care. mHealth or mobile health refers to healthcare applications and programs patients use on their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. These applications allow patients to track health measurements, set medication and appointment reminders, and share information with clinicians. Users can access hundreds of mHealth applications including asthma and diabetes management tools as well as weight loss or smoking cessation apps. Additionally, mobile devices allow users to schedule appointments and communicate with providers via video conference and text message.
One of the key advantages of telemedicine is the ability to provide healthcare to a patient, no matter the patient or provider’s location. However, since providers are licensed to practice in a specific state, they are only legally allowed to offer telemedicine services to patients in the same state. Currently, 49 state medical boards require physicians practicing telemedicine to be licensed in the state where the patient is located.
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Dr. Bernstein has practiced medicine since 1990 and provided virtual care with our team since 2006. He received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina and completed a residency at Providence Family Practice in Seattle. He also holds a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of Washington. Dr. Bernstein is dedicated to quality preventive medicine, public health promotion, and research. As Director of Clinical Quality, he manages the development and maintenance of the clinical standards of patient care, working with the development team to create new systems for measuring clinical delivery effectiveness. In his spare time, he is an avid cyclist and a soccer fan.