Telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular, with healthcare providers and patients embracing it in every corner of the world. There are many advantages to telehealth, and it is no wonder that numerous medical professionals, from small practices to major institutions, incorporate it into their existing systems.
Remote care is not a new idea. In one form or another, telemedicine has been around for decades. The possibility of connecting so quickly and easily with practitioners and specialists from remote locations arose recently. The development of the Internet and advanced digital technologies propelled telehealth to stardom.
Reshaping the healthcare system in the U.S. is much needed, and telemedicine may be the solution to many problems we are facing in medical practice. While some states have been diligent in developing the practice and taking advantage of what it has to offer, others took a pretty conservative approach. With the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems that we need a unified stance on telehealth, as it is the only way to have a swift and efficient reaction to a major national health crisis.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the exchange of medical information via electronic communication channels and digital technology for diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of the patient. The recipient and the provider of care are in remote locations. The patient's location is usually called the originating site, while the doctor's location is called the distant site.
Telemedicine has many aspects and can serve various purposes during the treatment. Some of the most common forms of telemedicine are:
- Live telemedicine which substitutes for the traditional doctor-patient encounter
- Store-and-forward which is the exchange of medical data via digital channels
- Remote patient monitoring which enables helps in observing patient's condition from distant sites
- Mobile health which utilizes telecommunications to organize the treatment and therapy
Type of Service
Live Video Calls
Real-time video chat between a health provider and a patient
A medical consultation through a two-way, interactive video communication channel
Use of electronic communication channels to transmit the recorded health history (both digital images and documents)
A physician sending scans images, blood test results, photos of skin conditions to an evaluation by a specialist
Remote Patient Monitoring
Transmission of medical data collected through a special electronic device to a doctor in a remote location
Wearing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices that can report patient activity in real-time(e.g., heart rate)
Use of mobile devices (phones and tablets) for medical purposes
Sending appointment notifications or reminders regarding medication as emails or text messages
When we talk about live telemedicine, we refer to the use of interactive, two-way video and audio communication to exchange the information between the doctor and the patient who are in remote locations.
This aspect of the practice is what revolutionized the delivery of healthcare because it offered an alternative to the traditional visit to a physician. Live telemedicine opened new possibilities when it comes to both primary and specialty care.
The store-and-forward technology is one of the oldest aspects of telemedicine. Exchanging medical data through telecommunication began a long time ago. With the rapid development of digital technology, this exchange became safer, quicker, and more precise.
Sending lab test results, scan images, or photos of skin conditions can happen in real-time now, and many medical professionals are using store-and-forward to improve the efficiency of the treatment.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is a practical model in which the data collected from the patient can be transmitted to the healthcare provider in real-time from any location. It usually includes medical devices with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection that automatically send information.
Heart-rate or blood-sugar monitors are some of the devices that the patients wear, while their doctors can observe the changes and react in case of emergency. Remote patient monitoring can be used even with more complicated medical equipment, such as dialysis machines.
Mobile health takes advantage of smart mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, to help in organizing the treatment and therapy. Healthcare providers can send appointment reminders or alert the patients that it is time to take medication.
Mobile health is essential in making the therapy efficient and assisting the patient in case of complicated schedules or demanding treatment requirements. When timing is a crucial element of the treatment, mobile health proved to be a life-saver.
Telemedicine and Telehealth
Telehealth and telemedicine are overlapping terms that cause confusion among medical professionals and patients. There is no official distinction between them on the federal or international level. It is upon each jurisdiction to offer its definition of these two words.
Most of the states view telemedicine and telehealth as synonyms. Even if one of them appears more often in the legal documents, it is not obligatory to use it to describe the practice of remote care.
In some legislations, the distinction does exist. Telemedicine is usually restricted to clinical services, while telehealth is a broader term that incorporates healthcare education and disease prevention.
The practitioners should always comply with the definition and the differentiation of the terms on the originating site. The location of the patient is what determines the rules in telemedicine. Providers must follow the guidelines, recommendations, and abide by the laws of the state or country where the recipient resides at the time of the treatment.
Advantages of Telemedicine
Telemedicine offers many advantages to providers, patients, and the entire healthcare system. Although it won't be possible to replace the traditional practice soon, telehealth is a useful and practical model that helps enhance the scope and quality of patient care.
It is essential to understand that telehealth is not an alternative form of medicine, but a different model of practice that aims to provide the same thing as traditional healthcare. The application of technology is just an additional tool that is supposed to upgrade the diagnostic and treatment.
Benefits of Telemedicine for Patients
Telemedicine became a popular model among patients. Some studies show that a considerable number of patients are willing to try telehealth, and the ones that did are glad to continue using it. The main reasons are:
- Ease of access to both primary and specialty care
- Cost reduction
Comfort and Ease of Access
People living in remote areas have a hard time accessing adequate medical care. The geographic location can sometimes make a difference between life and death. Telemedicine democratized healthcare, allowing patients from all over the world to gain access to superb care. All they need now is a stable internet connection.
But it is not just the location that became irrelevant with the rise of telehealth. It is the age and the mobility of the patient that can cause a problem for reaching adequate medical professionals and getting the right treatment. With telemedicine, patients have the opportunity to:
- Have the continuity of care with the physician they trust
- Consult with the best specialists regardless of the place of residence
- Receive information regarding their condition in real-time
- Have a more comfortable experience during the treatment
One of the most talked-about benefits of telehealth among the patients is the reduction of costs. While the costs of the treatment remain the same for in-person and telemedicine practice, the secondary costs are significantly reduced in remote care.
There are many things to consider before making a doctor's appointment, especially for patients who are living in remote or rural regions. Travel time, childcare, or being absent from work are only some of the issues that can prevent a person in need to seek help on time.
With telehealth, a patient can:
- Save time and money on travel to a physician's office or clinic
- Arrange a virtual visit during a break at work
- Avoid the costs of a babysitter or asking someone they know to take care of the children
Long waiting hours have always been a problem in clinics and hospitals. With the coronavirus outbreak, it became evident how not only boring but also dangerous spending too much time in overcrowded waiting rooms can be.
Exposure to infectious diseases is particularly problematic for elderly patients and people with weak immune systems. Telemedicine can prevent unnecessary risks. The patients can connect with their physicians remotely and make in-person visits only when they are needed.
Benefits of Telemedicine to Providers
Healthcare providers can benefit immensely from telemedicine. Whether it will be an additional model of delivery or a separate practice, the advantages are significant. The practitioners can opt to incorporate certain aspects of telehealth into their existing practice depending on the needs of their patients and the type of service they wish to provide.
The direct benefits or remote care include:
- Cutting unnecessary costs
- Enhancing the scope of work
- Increasing patient traffic
- Improving patient experience
- Ameliorating time and resource management
Saving money is a controversial topic in healthcare because it implies that the quality of care has to suffer for it. Telemedicine offers an opportunity to cut unnecessary costs without jeopardizing the standards of service.
Since telemedicine can serve as a triage to determine which patients need in-person appointments and which don't, the practitioners do not have to practice in huge spaces with big waiting rooms. The facilities can be used for strictly clinical purposes.
With digitalization comes an opportunity to save on non-medical personnel. Electronic health records (EHRs) have already reduced paperwork in traditional practice, but complete digital platforms can additionally be used for patient-registering, scheduling, and payment. By saving on administration, medical professionals can focus on their primary role—treating patients.
Scope of Work
The demand for medical care is continually rising, and providers all over the world are struggling to deliver. Telehealth enables practitioners to offer additional services because communication and information exchange becomes quicker and easier.
- Primary health providers can include specialty consultations into their scope of work by connecting patients with specialists remotely
- Practitioners can expand their practice with additional services using the resources saved on non-medical issues
One of the most significant advantages of telemedicine is that it allows the providers to admit more patients. Virtual visits are effective as they reduce the downtime. The time spent working can be used to its full potential.
The Curogram telemedicine platform has virtual waiting rooms and clinics that provide an excellent overview of daily schedules. The nurses can prepare patients for the encounter, and the doctors can initiate the visit as soon as the patients are ready. This feature mimics the environment of the physician’s office.
The practitioners don't have to depend on the locals to support their business, and they can boost patient traffic by admitting patients from other regions or states. Remote care allows the medical professionals to expand their working hours, or to adjust them according to the needs of the recipients.
A successful practice depends a lot on the experience of the patient. The quality of care and comfort of the recipient go hand in hand when it comes to patient satisfaction. That is why it is vital to reduce waiting hours and increase the availability of services.
Telehealth can help with it. Receiving treatment from home means that the recipient will have a more comfortable experience. Since they won't have to endure the stress of traveling and waiting, the encounter will be easier for patients. With happy patients and skilled physicians, the practice will bloom.
Time and Resources
Using digital technology speeds up the processes and enables healthcare providers to manage time and resources effectively. It is even possible to set up a practice at home, especially for mental health and behavior specialists. This means less money spent on rent, as well as less travel time.
With virtual assistants and automated procedures, healthcare providers can allocate resources to clinical tasks and patient care. Telemedicine platforms offer numerous possibilities in terms of scheduling, registration, and coordination, so they can reduce the red tape and no-shows. For instance, Curogram’s Front Desk Desk Suite feature is an end-to-end solution that incorporates communication and practice management.
Advantages of Telemedicine in the Healthcare System
Healthcare systems are facing new challenges globally. With the ever-growing demand for care, medical professionals can barely stay afloat, let alone treat all the patients that require help. The remodeling of the U.S. system is much needed, and telehealth seems to be the perfect solution.
Some of the advantages of introducing telemedicine are:
- Allowing easier access to medical care for people living in remote areas
- Increasing the availability of specialist care to all patients
- Releasing the pressure on hospitals and acute care units
- Reducing per-capita expenditures
Telemedicine is the future of medicine. The sooner our medical officials realize this fact, the better. It would be a significant boost to the outdated and inefficient system. Remote care can contribute to the overall health of the general population, as it integrates disease prevention and health education with clinical services.
Telemedicine and COVID-19
With the national health crisis hitting hard, it is high time the officials took the situation seriously. We must use all available tools to fight the pandemic. The states with progressive telemedicine policies respond to the crisis much better.
Although critical cases need hospitalization and acute care, telehealth providers can help with remote patient monitoring, respirator-management, and triage. Patients affected with other illnesses can have access to medical care without being exposed to the virus. Medical workers can protect themselves by avoiding contact with numerous patients in offices and waiting rooms.
Telehealth platforms all over the country are teaming up with hospitals and other medical institutions to offer assistance in times of need. Safe and efficient testing sites can be established within 24 hours with complete software support.
Advantages of Telemedicine Technology
Technology is a vital aspect of telehealth. The platform and communication channels are as important as the expertise of the practicing physician. Practitioners must choose telemedicine technology wisely because the legislation expects remote care providers to meet the same standards that apply to traditional practice.
One of the biggest concerns is data privacy and security. It is imperative to use a platform that provides HIPAA compliant communication and protects patient information with encryption and password protection. The technology should also offer a user-friendly interface and EHR integration.
Curogram offers patient-centric telemedicine solutions that help practices boost their productivity. Some of the benefits of opting for Curogram are:
- Two-way texting feature that allows real-time communication with the patients
- Secure internal messaging system for employees
- Virtual clinic and waiting rooms
Our platform integrates with any EHR, which minimizes the need for manual or double entries.
Curogram EHR integrations