As with many other aspects of modern life, new technologies have had profound impacts on the healthcare delivery system in the US. Modern healthcare customers think nothing of booking an appointment, requesting a prescription refill, or looking at test results online. Many of us count our steps, keep track of what we eat, and monitor our heart rate from a smart device. These days, healthcare and technology go hand in hand.
“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.”
Telepathology is the practice of pathology at a distance. It uses telecommunications technology to facilitate the transfer of image-rich pathology data between distant locations for the purposes of diagnosis, education, and research. Performance of telepathology requires that a pathologist selects the video images for analysis and the rendering diagnoses. The use of "television microscopy", the forerunner of telepathology, did not require that a pathologist have physical or virtual "hands-on" involvement is the selection of microscopic fields-of-view for analysis and diagnosis.
Thanks to telemedicine programs, hospitals, clinics and all other health facilities can ensure that patients receive the best care possible when that care is in their hometown or even hundred of miles away. So what is telehealth’s role in this? It can play a major role in addressing some of the upcoming challenges for healthcare in the United States. For instance, the population growth from 2008-2030 is set at 20%, that is 363 million people, which is predicted to bring about a shortage of healthcare professionals and the lack of specialists and medical facilities in rural areas. Additionally, there is an expected increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and obstructive pulmonary disease. Statistics indicates that almost 5 million patients are admitted to the intensive care unit that accounts for 20% of the hospital’s operating budgets. Telemedicine can reduce the impact of such challenges by connecting the right people with the correct resources and expertise in real-time.
In 2016, researchers posing as patients turned to 16 different telemedicine apps to diagnose skin issues. The results? Some of the online doctors misdiagnosed conditions like syphilis, others prescribed unnecessary meds, and two of the sites used doctors who aren't licensed to practice in the state the patient was located. The authors concluded that these apps repeatedly missed diagnoses by failing to ask simple, relevant questions.
It has been around for decades, but in recent years private insurers, employers, and government programs have expanded their coverage. By 2016 at least half of U.S. healthcare institutions and hospitals were using some form of telehealth. And last September the Senate passed a bill that will expand Medicare coverage for telehealth services, if it’s signed into law.