“Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services.”
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TV celebrity Dr. Phil McGraw discussed the Doctor On Demand app, which connects any patient with a Board Certified physician or pediatrician via video chat in just two minutes. To use Doctor On Demand, patients download the app, give some background on their medical history, enter information on what’s wrong, and the app connects them to a health care provider from there. The service is currently available in 47 US states (excluding Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska) and can be accessed through the iPhone, iPad, Android, and on the web. Doctor on Demand’s hours of operation are 7 am to 11 pm local time (we're hoping it will one day become available 24 hours a day). A 15-minute session costs $40, which is a bit higher than the average co-pay many patients have for in-office visits, and the program currently does not accept health insurance. From the app demo at CES and from Kelly’s experience (more on that below), the Doctor On Demand app is quite sleek and the video chat is as easy to use as Facetime or Skype. Patients can find pharmacists and manage their prescriptions right from their smartphone – no more hard-to-read prescriptions or the potential to lose the prescription slip. Dr. Phil characterized the service as a “game-changer” and proposed that it could address 17 of the top 20 reasons people see a doctor (the flu, skin conditions, etc.) – these day-to-day conditions seem to be a key focus of Docotor on Demand, as opposed to more chronic conditions like full-time diabetes management. To learn more about Doctor on Demand’s policies and most frequently asked questions, please see this page.
“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.
Many doctors who choose to offer virtual visits to their patients will do so as part of a direct-pay or concierge practice model. Instead of having their doctor bill through an insurance carrier, these patients might have a high-deductible insurance plan for emergencies and then pay a yearly fee to essentially have their doctor on retainer. The patients might pay an additional convenience fee for each virtual visit, or just have access to virtual visits with their doctor as part of their subscription fee for the practice.
As technology developed and wired communication became increasingly commonplace, the ideas surrounding telehealth began emerging. The earliest telehealth encounter can be traced to Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, when he used his early telephone as a means of getting help from his assistant Mr. Watson after he spilt acid on his trousers. Another instance of early telehealth, specifically telemedicine was reported in The Lancet in 1879. An anonymous writer described a case where a doctor successfully diagnosed a child over the telephone in the middle of the night. This Lancet issue, also further discussed the potential of Remote Patient Care in order to avoid unnecessary house visits, which were part of routine health care during the 1800s. Other instances of telehealth during this period came from the American Civil War, during which telegraphs were used to deliver mortality lists and medical care to soldiers.
Initially, Medicare only reimbursed providers for very specific health services provided via telemedicine, often with strict requirements. In the past few years with the rapid growth in the telemedicine industry, Medicare has expanded the list of reimbursable telemedicine services but still imposes many restrictions on how the service is provided.
Telemedicine for trauma education: some trauma centers are delivering trauma education lectures to hospitals and health care providers worldwide using video conferencing technology. Each lecture provides fundamental principles, firsthand knowledge and evidenced-based methods for critical analysis of established clinical practice standards, and comparisons to newer advanced alternatives. The various sites collaborate and share their perspective based on location, available staff, and available resources.
These devices can be packed into a kit and sent out into the field. In this way, telemedicine has proved extremely useful in rural and developing countries like Gabon, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Nigeria, where there is very little access to high-quality medical care. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of distance and improves access to medical services that would otherwise not be available in distant rural communities.
Medicaid guidelines require all providers to practice within the scope of their State Practice Act. Some states have enacted legislation that requires providers using telemedicine technology across state lines to have a valid state license in the state where the patient is located. Any such requirements or restrictions placed by the state are binding under current Medicaid rules.
In Australia, during January 2014, Melbourne tech startup Small World Social collaborated with the Australian Breastfeeding Association to create the first hands-free breastfeeding Google Glass application for new mothers. The application, named Google Glass Breastfeeding app trial, allows mothers to nurse their baby while viewing instructions about common breastfeeding issues (latching on, posture etc.) or call a lactation consultant via a secure Google Hangout, who can view the issue through the mother's Google Glass camera. The trial was successfully concluded in Melbourne in April 2014, and 100% of participants were breastfeeding confidently. Small World Social Breasfteeding Support Project.
A telemedicine vendor should have no reservations in signing a Business Associate Agreement. Those that do sign one are confident in their ability to securely store patient information. VSee is currently the only company that offers a HIPAA Messenger App for organizations to try for free. They are confident that their telemedicine solutions can protect pertinent patient information.
In the early days, telemedicine was used mostly to connect doctors working with a patient in one location to specialists somewhere else. This was of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists aren’t readily available. Throughout the next several decades, the equipment necessary to conduct remote visits remained expensive and complex, so the use of the approach, while growing, was limited.
The development of modern telemedicine began with the invention of the telecommunications infrastructure, including the telephone and telegraph. Early on, telemedicine technology was adopted for use in military situations during the Civil War, such as ordering medical supplies or medical consultations. Casualty and injury lists were also delivered via telegraph.
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.
The U.S. spends over $2.9 trillion on healthcare every year, more than any other developed nation. On top of that, an estimated $200 billion of those costs are avoidable, unnecessary spending. Telemedicine has the power to cut our healthcare spending by reducing problems like medication non-adherence and unnecessary ER visits, and making typical doctor visits more efficient.
Telehealth for Education and Training: Numerous organizations provide healthcare education with the help of digital telehealth technologies including Harvard’s Safety, Quality, Informatics and Leadership (SQIL) program which takes a blended learning approach. SQIL uses on-demand content combined with in-person training to create a new medical education model that uses “information technology (IT), data, and a culture of continuous improvement to enable healthcare organizations to evolve into true learning systems.” Time-crunched physicians are increasingly using online and mobile platforms to meet their CME and MOC requirements, and to prepare for Board Exams.
The benefits posed by telehealth challenge the normative means of healthcare delivery set in both legislation and practice. Therefore, the growing prominence of telehealth is starting to underscore the need for updated regulations, guidelines and legislation which reflect the current and future trends of healthcare practices. Telehealth enables timely and flexible care to patients wherever they may be; although this is a benefit, it also poses threats to privacy, safety, medical licensing and reimbursement. When a clinician and patient are in different locations, it is difficult to determine which laws apply to the context. Once healthcare crosses borders different state bodies are involved in order to regulate and maintain the level of care that is warranted to the patient or telehealth consumer. As it stands, telehealth is complex with many grey areas when put into practice especially as it crosses borders. This effectively limits the potential benefits of telehealth.
Patients often look for a quick and inexpensive second opinion from a specialist, after diagnosis of a medical condition. Telemedicine has stepped up, by providing solutions in this aspect as well. Companies and traditional healthcare services such as Partners Healthcare, 2nd.MD, DoctorSpring, and Cleaveland Clinic are providing quick and efficient second opinions using telehealth.
While laws about prescriptions issued via telemedicine consultations are stringent in many states, the general trend indicates more states will allow these types of online prescriptions, the Center for Connected Health Policy reported. A sticking point is that prescriptions require the establishment of a doctor-patient relationship, and some states do not qualify virtual visits as a legitimate relationship.
ECGs, or electrocardiographs, can be transmitted using telephone and wireless. Willem Einthoven, the inventor of the ECG, actually did tests with transmission of ECG via telephone lines. This was because the hospital did not allow him to move patients outside the hospital to his laboratory for testing of his new device. In 1906 Einthoven came up with a way to transmit the data from the hospital directly to his lab. See above reference-General health care delivery. Remotely treating ventricular fibrillation Medphone Corporation, 1989
“I woke up Sunday morning with a dry cough and terrible headache,” Ben said. “Realizing I didn’t feel up to going to a clinic, I logged on to Medical City and selected the virtual option. Using the interface was straightforward. I answered several easy questions about my current condition and minutes later I received an email that my info was being examined. I was instructed to set up an account. A second email contained my prescription and expected recovery time. I sent the prescription to the pharmacy next to my house and good to go. In no time, I had the medication and was on my way to feeling better.”