mHealth, also known as mobile health, is a form of telemedicine using wireless devices and cell phone technologies. It is useful to think of mHealth as a tool--a medium--through which telemedicine can be practiced. mHealth is a particularly powerful development because it delivers clinical care through consumer-grade hardware and allows for greater patient and provider mobility. ATA has an array of Special Interest Groups with one dedicated to the practice and development of mHealth.
One especially successful telemedicine project funded by the government was called the Space Technology Applied to Rural Papago Advanced Health Care (STARPAHC), and was a partnership between NASA and the Indian Health Services. The program funded remote medical services to Native Americans living on the Papago Reservation in Arizona and astronauts in space! Projects like STARPAHC drove research in medical engineering, and helped expand advancements in telemedicine. The next few decades saw continued innovations in telemedicine and wider research at universities, medical centers and research companies.
Real-time communication is probably what jumps to mind when you think of telehealth technology. It happens with the patient is at one location and the provider is at another and they connect using a video-enabled device and a telephone or computer audio. Sometimes the patient might be at a healthcare facility with a provider and they establish communications with a specialist at a remote location, other times the patient might not be at a medical office at all. She might join the encounter from work or the office, for example. Many state laws require insurers to reimburse for these types of video visits. Most don’t have a similar stipulation for telephone calls that don’t involve video.
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.
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!
Funding Opportunities: Telehealth can be an important tool for improving access to quality health care, especially for underserved and economically or medically vulnerable populations. Applicants who propose a telehealth component to their work plan are encouraged to reach out to one of the 12 HRSA-supported Regional Telehealth Resource Centers , which provide technical assistance to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or interested in providing telehealth services to rural and/or underserved communities.
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.
To keep up with the rate that technology is progressing, the telemedicine will of course need to overcome other administrative barriers, such as restrictions placed on telemedicine practice by state legislation, state-specific licensing requirements by medical boards, and the reimbursement policies that affect whether doctors are reimbursed by payers and patients are not out-of-pocket. But with the projection that telemedicine will be a $36.3 billion industry by 2020, over 50 telehealth-related bills in the 113th Congress, and 75% of surveyed patients reporting interest in telemedicine, telemedicine’s future is bright and demand is likely to overcome these barriers.
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.
But for growth investors, Teladoc looks like a great pick. Telehealth is still in its early stages with a tremendous opportunity for growth. Teladoc Health is the top player in the space with a lead that will be difficult to overcome. The stock might experience sharp declines now and then, but there should be more ups than downs for Teladoc over the long run.
Effective September 1, 2018, the AlaskaCare Employee Health Plan has partnered with Teladoc® to provide you with a convenient and affordable way to receive quality medical care. Teladoc® lets you talk with experienced doctors by phone or video anytime, anywhere. All Teladoc® doctors are board-certified, state-licensed and can treat many health issues, including:
“Creating a viable telemedicine program is both a short-term and a long-term proposition,” said Daniel Barchi, CIO at New York-Presbyterian. “It is possible, with a small team and early investment of resources, to create telemedicine capability in a specific vertical. It could be post-surgical follow-up visits for patients and surgeons, medication reconciliation video visits with a pharmacist, or urgent care emergency department video calls.”
There are currently two major ways you can access remote care from your home: through e-visits with your own provider (if they’re offered) or through a consult with an online-only service, such as Teladoc. This could be as simple as talking to your doctor over the phone or using the Teladoc app to video chat with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or other provider who can write a prescription.