Telehealth for Education and Training: Numerous organizations provide healthcare education with the help of digital telehealth technologies including Harvard’s Safety, Quality, Informatics and Leadership (SQIL) program which takes a blended learning approach. SQIL uses on-demand content combined with in-person training to create a new medical education model that uses “information technology (IT), data, and a culture of continuous improvement to enable healthcare organizations to evolve into true learning systems.” Time-crunched physicians are increasingly using online and mobile platforms to meet their CME and MOC requirements, and to prepare for Board Exams.
Also impacting the rise of telemedicine today is the growing mobile health field. With the wide variety of mobile health apps and new mobile medical devices that are consumer-friendly, patients are starting to use technology to monitor and track their health. Simple home-use medical devices that can take vitals and diagnose ear infections, monitor glucose levels, or measure blood pressure let patients gather needed medical information for a doctor’s diagnosis, without going into the doctor’s office. And again, as more patients get proactive about using technology to manage their health, they also will be more open to alternative ways to get care – through telemedicine!
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:
"Being able to tie [telehealth] to a larger strategic goal is critical to success," said Mr. Heller. UnityPoint Health aimed to provide the same quality of care for lower acuity visits at a reduced cost. The company looked at more than 1,000 visits from its self-insured health plan, assessing the additional value it generated from its employees using telehealth rather than taking off of work for medical care.
*Teladoc does not guarantee that a prescription will be written. Teladoc does not prescribe DEA controlled substances, non-therapeutic drugs and certain other drugs which may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. Teladoc operates subject to state regulations and may not be available in certain states. Teladoc does not replace the primary care physician. Teladoc physicians are U.S. board-certified in internal medicine, family practice, emergency medicine or pediatrics and reserve the right to deny care for potential misuse of services. Teladoc consultations are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. ©2016 Teladoc, Inc. All rights reserved. Teladoc and the Teladoc logo are trademarks of Teladoc, Inc. and may not be used without written permission.
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.
“If there are areas of clinical need across the healthcare network, telemedicine may allow for better leveraging and expanding access to sub-specialists,” Sokolovich said. “Another opportunity could include better triaging patients through telemedicine-enabled provider-to-provider or provider-to-patient evaluations, which bring together experts who can quickly assess the best care path and eliminate unnecessary hospital admissions or emergency department visits.”
Wyoming Medicaid conducted a study measuring engagement and post-birth outcomes for patients who used a mobile health app called, “Due Date Plus.” Use of the app, which allowed women to record pregnancy milestones, access medical services, and find symptom-related information was associated with increased compliance with prenatal care and decreased occurrence of babies born with low birth weights.
As the population grows and ages, and medical advances are made which prolong life, demands increase on the healthcare system. Healthcare providers are also being asked to do more, with no increase in funding, or are encouraged to move to new models of funding and care such as patient-centered or outcomes based, rather than fee-for-service. Some specific health professions already have a shortage (i.e. Speech-language pathologists). When rural settings, lack of transport, lack of mobility (i.e. In the elderly or disabled), decreased funding or lack of staffing restrict access to care, telehealth can bridge the gap.
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.
VSee urges organizations interested in implementing telemedicine to find a telemedicine provider that offers HIPAA compliant software. This means that all data must be fully encrypted, have secure peer-to-peer network connections and have no storage of video. Telemedicine providers should also be comfortable signing a business associate agreement, which asserts that they will take responsibility in keeping patient information safe.
In 2009, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health established a partnership with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and the South Carolina Hospital Association to form a statewide telepsychiatry program that provides access to psychiatrists 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, to treat patients with mental health issues who present at rural emergency departments in the network.
Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation and a host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.
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.
Once shared, that knowledge takes on a life of its own, growing and moving in all directions. Primary-care clinicians learn from their specialist mentors at the university hubs, but they also learn from each other. And by applying the knowledge they gain in the field, they produce new knowledge, which they then relay to their specialist and primary-care colleagues in their learning community.
Sharla Peterson has worked in primary care since 2007 and provided virtual care since 2011. She received her Master of Nursing from Washington State University. In addition to her career in telemedicine, she works part-time in a plastic surgery office and volunteers at a free clinic near her home. She serves as Medical Director for local Camporee events with the Boy Scouts of America and works with youth in her church. When she is not working, she enjoys cooking, family time and outdoor adventures of all kinds.
The short-seller's online article stated that sales for Teladoc's BetterHelp mental health business would fall because of a controversy about YouTube stars receiving referral payments for promoting the BetterHelp website. BetterHelp is an important driver of Teladoc's growth, although the business makes up less than 15% of the company's total revenue.
Obamacare—or the Affordable Care Act, as it is officially called—has been a catalyst for Teladoc’s recent growth surge. The law puts pressure on doctor’s offices, who are seeing more patients, as well as employers, who are looking to cut healthcare costs. As a result, telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular as a cheaper alternative to going to the emergency room. Insurance companies including Aetna (AET), Blue Shield of California and Oscar—which offers Obamacare plans on New York’s health exchange—have recently signed on with Teladoc, as have Home Depot (HD), T-Mobile (TMUS), pension giant CalPERS, and others.
Telepathology has been successfully used for many applications including the rendering histopathology tissue diagnoses, at a distance, for education, and for research. Although digital pathology imaging, including virtual microscopy, is the mode of choice for telepathology services in developed countries, analog telepathology imaging is still used for patient services in some developing countries.
However, telemedicine also has a few downsides — by nature of its virtual interaction, and because of societal and technological barriers that could change in the future. The good news is, with the growing popularity and widespread acceptance of telemedicine, we’re likely to see the cons of telemedicine resolve themselves. With new technological advancements and shifting policy that increasingly supports telemedicine, we’re continuously finding ways to improve telemedicine and make it a viable, even advantageous form of healthcare delivery for many medical scenarios.
Do you have a doctor who makes house calls? In the middle of the night and on holidays? Or one that comes to your office when you’re stuck working on a project? No? Well, you do now. With Medical City Virtual Care, you can access a trusted healthcare provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year from any mobile device or computer … from anywhere in Texas … no appointment necessary. Right this way: Your online doctor will see you now.