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.
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.
Where telemedicine refers specifically to the practice of medicine via remote means, telehealth is a blanket term that covers all components and activities of healthcare and the healthcare system that are conducted through telecommunications technology. Healthcare education, wearable devices that record and transmit vital signs, and provider-to-provider remote communication are examples of telehealth activities and applications that extend beyond remote clinical care.
Bao Ng has worked in primary care since 2013 and provided virtual care since 2013. Obtaining her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Washington, she began working in telemedicine shortly thereafter. Her medical interests include international health, and maternal and child health. She works at an international community health clinic near her home, and is fluent in Vietnamese and proficient in conversational Cantonese. She volunteers as a caregiver in her church nursery and is an executive board member for a local pediatric and behavioral health clinic. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children and exploring new cuisines.
Although telemedicine itself permits physicians to treat patients nationwide, there are restrictions on who can provide services across state lines. States with large rural areas with limited access to care could greatly benefit from this, but varying state regulations make the process challenging. Physicians who do want to practice medicine across states may have to obtain a full medical license in all states. Not only is the process time consuming, but it is also expensive for physicians to do.
The potential benefits of telehealth services may be limited by other factors, such as the ability to pay for them. Insurance reimbursement for telehealth still varies by state and type of insurance. Also, some people who would benefit most from improved access to care may be limited because of regional internet availability or the cost of mobile devices.
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.
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.
“Telepsychiatry, a subset of telemedicine, can involve providing a range of services including psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management,” American Psychiatry Association. Telepsychiatry has several advantages over traditional psychiatry including reduced stigma, reduced time off work, and better access to mental health specialty care that might not otherwise be available. Companies like Iris Health, Genoa Health, InSight, and MDLive are already delivering telepsychiatry platforms across the US.
Kelly had the chance to test out the Doctor on Demand app, and it took her about ten minutes after downloading the app to start video chatting with a cool doc on her smartphone. Kelly’s session took about five minute total, and as soon as it was done, the doctor sent an antibiotic prescription straight to the pharmacy for her. 20 minutes later, she got a text saying it was ready to be picked up, and in under an hour, she had her prescription from Walgreens. For those who prioritize speed and low hassle over familiarity of their own doctor (or health center), or even those without insurance, this is a real win.
Remote surgery or telesurgery is performance of surgical procedures where the surgeon is not physically in the same location as the patient, using a robotic teleoperator system controlled by the surgeon. The remote operator may give tactile feedback to the user. Remote surgery combines elements of robotics and high-speed data connections. A critical limiting factor is the speed, latency and reliability of the communication system between the surgeon and the patient, though trans-Atlantic surgeries have been demonstrated.
Remote monitoring, also known as self-monitoring or testing, enables medical professionals to monitor a patient remotely using various technological devices. This method is primarily used for managing chronic diseases or specific conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or asthma. These services can provide comparable health outcomes to traditional in-person patient encounters, supply greater satisfaction to patients, and may be cost-effective. Examples include home-based nocturnal dialysis and improved joint management.
Each online video chat appointment with a doctor costs patients $40; doctors get $30 of that, with the company taking a $10 cut. Doctors can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication, but the app and website are not recommended for any patient experiencing a potentially life-threatening emergency medical condition. Doctors also cannot use it to prescribe medications like sedatives and narcotics.
1. The doctor writes you a prescription. In-person, this can mean a handwritten prescription or a digital prescription sent directly to a pharmacy. Prescriptions can be sent to a retail pharmacy, mail-order pharmacy, or pharmacy inside your doctor’s office. Online doctors only have the digital option and will likely send the prescription to a retail pharmacy in your area.