The concept of telemedicine started with the birth of telecommunications technology, the means of sending information over a distance in the form of electromagnetic signals. Early forms of telecommunications technology included the telegraph, radio, and telephone. In the late 19th century, the radio and telephone were just starting to emerge as viable communication technologies. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876 and Heinrich Rudolf Hertz performed the first radio transmission in 1887.
Doctor On Demand offers fast, easy and cost-effective video consultations with board-certified physicians, psychiatrists, and licensed psychologists via smartphone or computer. The service is available for anyone to use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To access Doctor On Demand, download the app (iTunes or Google Play) or create an account on the website. Once registered, patients can enter code HARVEY2017 to redeem their visit with a medical physician.
When a healthcare service decides to provide telehealth to its patients, there are steps to consider, besides just whether the above resources are available. A needs assessment is the best way to start, which includes assessing the access the community currently has to the proposed specialists and care, whether the organisation currently has underutilized equipment which will make them useful to the area they are trying to service, and the hardships they are trying to improve by providing the access to their intended community (i.e. Travel time, costs, time off work). A service then needs to consider potential collaborators. Other services may exist in the area with similar goals who could be joined to provide a more holistic service, and/or they may already have telehealth resources available. The more services involved, the easier to spread the cost of IT, training, workflow changes and improve buy-in from clients. Services need to have the patience to wait for the accrued benefits of providing their telehealth service and cannot necessarily expect community-wide changes reflected straight away.
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.
After laying out the basics, an organization should decide what type of telemedicine solutions to offer. A telemedicine expert like VSee offers a text and video collaboration app, a Virtual waiting room, and more. The organization should be responding to their current pain points, such as overcrowded waiting rooms or difficulty reaching patients in rural areas.
Dr. Parker has practiced medicine since 1994 and provided virtual care since 2013. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin and went on to complete a family practice residency at St. Joseph's Hospital and St. Mary's Family Practice. In addition to his work in telemedicine, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. Dr. Parker and his family have a strong commitment to organic, sustainable, and humane food preparation, raising and growing much of their own food. In his spare time, he is a trail runner, half-marathoner and amateur photographer.
When the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), began plans to send astronauts into space, the need for Telemedicine became clear. In order to monitor their astronauts in space, telemedicine capabilities were built into the spacecraft as well as the first spacesuits. Additionally, during this period, telehealth and Telemedicine were promoted in different countries especially the United States and Canada.
Telemedicine companies that are consumer-facing offer the huge benefit of on-demand care for patients. A sick patient can simply login online and request a visit with one of the company’s doctors and get treatment. But this model, similar to the retail health movement, leads to a breakdown in care continuity. A random doctor who doesn’t know the patient, doesn’t know their whole medical history. The best approach to telemedicine? Providing tools to providers to easily connect with their own patients.
This type of telemedicine allows providers to share patient information with a practitioner in another location. For example, a primary care physician can now share patient records and medical data with a specialist without being in the same room. Systems can transmit information across vast distances and different systems (sometimes) so one physician can know what another has already done. This leads to less duplicate testing and fewer instances of poor medication management.
Real-time telemedicine (also called “synchronous telemedicine”) is probably what most people first think of when they hear “telemedicine.” Real-time telemedicine requires a live interaction between either a health professional and patient, or between health professionals, using audio and video communication. Think videochat. While most real-time telemedicine software is much more sophisticated than a simple videochat platform, the basic goal is to both see and talk to the patient from afar. This type of telemedicine is meant to offer a virtual alternative to the in-person doctor’s visit.
Telehealth Addresses Primary Care Physician Shortages/Specialist Scarcity: Telehealth is allowing patients at smaller, less-resourced hospitals to gain access to specialists based at larger regional facilities. Undeniably, lack of access and hard-to-reach populations are drivers of telehealth innovations as supported by this 2014 MUSC study on the use of telehospitalists to address physician shortages. Telehealth is being implemented to treat prison populations, as well as being deployed in rural communities and underserved urban areas to improve healthcare availability.
The growth in telemedicine solutions means that telemedicine options are now more diverse, with many more affordable solutions. However, most telemedicine programs do require the purchase, set-up and staff training of new technology and equipment – some of which may be outside the budget of providers in smaller independent practices. Many providers are already stretched thin on new technology budgets and staff training for EHR systems, imposed by the Meaningful Use program. Also, for patients who may not have access to a smartphone or a computer with internet, real-time telemedicine may be out of reach.
Telehealth Reimbursement Medicaid: According to Chiron Health, Medicaid systems in 48 states will reimburse for telehealth provided via live video systems while 19 state Medicaid programs will pay for RPM. 12 state programs will finance store and forward telehealth and seven states allow payment for all three telehealth categories. But even though Medicaid is more accommodating of telehealth than Medicare, rules governing payment through state Medicaid programs vary considerably. For instance, some states require patients to be in a medical facility and not at home while receiving telehealth care, and others require a licensed provider to be co-located with patients while they are receiving telehealth services.
Telemedicine for intensive care unit (ICU) rounds: Telemedicine is also being used in some trauma ICUs to reduce the spread of infections. Rounds are usually conducted at hospitals across the country by a team of approximately ten or more people to include attending physicians, fellows, residents and other clinicians. This group usually moves from bed to bed in a unit discussing each patient. This aids in the transition of care for patients from the night shift to the morning shift, but also serves as an educational experience for new residents to the team. A new approach features the team conducting rounds from a conference room using a video-conferencing system. The trauma attending, residents, fellows, nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists are able to watch a live video stream from the patient's bedside. They can see the vital signs on the monitor, view the settings on the respiratory ventilator, and/or view the patient's wounds. Video-conferencing allows the remote viewers two-way communication with clinicians at the bedside.
Significant hurdles for more wide-spread telehealth adoption are the limits on reimbursement and the inconsistent payer landscape. In a KLAS-CHIME study from October of last year, over 50 percent of respondents from 104 health care organizations indicated that limits on reimbursement constrict their ability to expand telehealth services for patients. Medicare and Medicaid offer disparate degrees of flexibility while private payers also represent varying levels of funding.
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.
Project ECHO, a knowledge-sharing enterprise that works both across the U.S. and globally, offers a good example of how technology-enabled collaborative learning models work. Launched initially in New Mexico to help patients with hepatitis C gain access to specialty treatment, Project ECHO connects a team of specialists at a university medical center "hub" with teams of primary-care clinicians at community health centers—or "spokes"—across a state or region. This connection is recurring: Typically, it takes place every week or every other week, during telementoring clinics that operate like virtual grand rounds.
Healthcare systems, policymakers, vendors, and providers alike can attest to the many gray areas within telemedicine. One particular area that requires more clarity is the legalities surrounding telemedicine. With it being an industry that is constantly growing, it has become difficult to create a concrete solution. In addition, each state follows different laws for telemedicine, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep up with it.
Today the telemedicine field is changing faster than ever before. As technology advances at exponential levels, so does the widespread affordability and accessibility to basic telemedicine tools. For example, not only do we now have the technology for live video telemedicine, but much of the U.S. population has experience using online videochat apps (like Skype or Facetime), and access to a computer or mobile device to use them.
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.
The creation of telemedicine began with the inception of the telecommunications infrastructure, which included the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Casualties and injuries were reported using the telegraph during the Civil War, in addition to the ordering of medical supplies and consultations. This is considered one the earliest adoptions of telemedicine technology.
This term has a narrower scope than that of telehealth. It refers more specifically to education over a distance and the provision of health care services through the use of telecommunications technology. Telemedicine refers to the use of information technologies and electronic communications to provide remote clinical services to patients. The digital transmission of medical imaging, remote medical diagnosis and evaluations, and video consultations with specialists are all examples of telemedicine.
Applications of telehealth in physical therapy already have roots that expand throughout patient/client care and consultation, as it allows PTs to better communicate with patients/clients and provide more flexible care. Telehealth will not replace traditional clinical care. However, it will give PTs and PTAs the flexibility to provide services in a greater capacity. Examples:
A native of rural Washington, Katie Gieseke has practiced medicine since 2009, and provided virtual care since 2015. She received her undergraduate degree in Nursing from the University of Portland and received her Doctorate of Nursing Practice and Family Nurse Practitioner certification from the University of Washington. Her nursing career ranges from experience in the emergency department to home health assessments. During her time in the emergency department, she became interested in improving the effectiveness, efficiency and continuity of the health care system. She has a strong interest in illness prevention and look forward to having the time to spend with patients providing education on maintaining wellness, disease prevention and motivating patients to take control of their health.