Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, far away from local health facilities or in areas of with shortages of medical professionals. While telemedicine is still used today to address these problems, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care. Today’s connected patient wants to waste less time in the waiting room at the doctor, and get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they need it.
Today’s competitive health care marketplace has created an environment where patients demand lower costs, higher service quality, and convenient access to services.  Telehealth is an innovative and valuable mechanism that provides patients with efficient access to quality services. Lowering costs and removing barriers to service access, are critical components in promoting patient wellness and population health. Convenience and cost-effectiveness are important commodities in the modern health care marketplace, as patients tend to avoid treatment that is difficult to access or too expensive. As a result, telehealth technology is emerging as a preferred choice among patients and providers. Telehealth has also attracted the attention of US legislators. They utilize this tool for improving the competitiveness of American health care services. This is especially important, seeing as health care represents 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In fact, the resource has helped to define the role that lawmakers play in ensuring that patients benefit in a competitive health care market.
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.
A sexually transmitted illness, which affects men and women of all ages, herpes is embarrassing to deal with. Whether in the form of a cold sore on your mouth, or a rash on your genitals, discomfort and unease is sure to follow. While there is no cure for Herpes at this time, there are several treatment options which have been made available across the United States.
Store-and-forward is the oldest form of telehealth technology. It refers to the transmission of images or information from one provider to another. For example, if your doctor sends digital images of an x-ray to a radiologist for analysis, they are leveraging store-and-forward telehealth technology. This is one of the most common uses, but images and information of any type can be transmitted in this matter. One thing we should point out, however, is that store-and-forward telehealth is not always covered by state telemedicine reimbursement laws, even in states that require parity for real-time communication.
Due to its digital nature it is often assumed that telehealth saves the health system money. However, the evidence to support this is varied. When conducting economic evaluations of telehealth services, the individuals evaulating them need to be aware of potential outcomes and extraclinical benefits of the telehealth service. Economic viability relies on the funding model within the country being examined (public vs private), the consumers willingness-to-pay, and the expected remuneration by the clinicians or commercial entities providing the services (examples of research on these topics from teledermoscopy in Australia ).
Clinicians are conquering distance and providing access to patients who are not able to travel by providing appointments utilizing real-time video communication platforms. Video conferencing technology has been utilized to provide care for inmates, military personnel, and patients located in rural locations for some time. Also, suppliers of both care and financing such as Kaiser Permanente, the Defense Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been exploiting telehealth modalities to increase access to healthcare services and promote better care quality. In another example, S.C. Department of Corrections and the Medical University of South Carolina are using video scopes and high-resolution cameras to diagnose and treat inmates remotely. They are also conducting virtual appointments using video/audio communication applications to reduce prisoner transportation costs and increase safety by keeping inmates in and providers out of correctional facilities.
Up until 2013, hospitals were required to staff their EDs with a physician 24 hours a day, either on site or on call. In 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services adjusted that requirement to allow rural hospitals to use advanced practice providers, such as a physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as long as physicians could be summoned via telemedicine in an emergency.
Monitoring center links are used for one type of telemedicine – remote patient monitoring. This type of telemedicine link creates a digital connection between a patient’s house and a remote monitoring facility, so that a patient’s medical data can be measured at home and transmitted electronically to a distant medical monitoring facility. These links usually take the form of internet, SMS, or telephone connections. They’re most commonly used for monitoring of pulmonary, cardiac, or fetal medical data.
When a patient is in the hospital and he is placed under general observation after a surgery or other medical procedure, the hospital is usually losing a valuable bed and the patient would rather not be there as well. Home health allows the remote observation and care of a patient. Home health equipment consists of vital signs capture, video conferencing capabilities, and patient stats can be reviewed and alarms can be set from the hospital nurse’s station, depending on the specific home health device.
On July 7th, 2015, House representatives introduced the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015. If passed, the bill will expand what telemedicine services Medicare will cover and get rid of many limitations (like the requirements for what qualifies as an “originating site“). Legislation like this one could have a huge impact on coverage for remote patient monitoring and other telemedicine services delivered to the patient in their own home.
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.
Telehealth and Patient Engagement: With telehealth technologies, patients are taking more control of their well-being. Educational videos, health management apps for mobile devices, and online health learning and support communities empower patients to manage chronic conditions, lose weight, increase physical activity levels, and gain emotional support. Diabetes patients are benefiting from carbohydrate tracking apps and are using glucose monitoring devices to document and report their blood sugar measurements. Other patients are interacting with their providers and scheduling appointments through secure online communication portals. Additionally, they are accessing health education content via smartphones and computers to add to their self-care toolboxes. They are also using wearables and monitoring systems to gain knowledge about their sleep patterns, vital signs, and activity levels.
Children under 3 with a fever need to be seen immediately by a doctor in an office based setting. Children under 12 with ear pain can be treated if the pain is due to a virus (e.g. Colds), allergies, or an external infection. If there is a high likelihood it is a bacterial inner infection that needs antibiotics, they should be seen immediately by a doctor in an office based setting.