Telemedicine is rapidly changing the way in which modern healthcare is delivered. Through the use of advanced teleconferencing, telecommunications technology, and remote patient monitoring, healthcare providers can deliver medical care to patients anywhere, regardless of the distance.
Eliminating the distance barriers between providers and patients is crucial, given the fact that the majority of geographically isolated patients have extremely limited access to healthcare.
The lack of physicians and specialists in these areas means that patients often have to commute for hours to receive the required medical care. This increases their expenses further, adding to the already high medical bills.
It’s not uncommon for patients to put off a visit to the doctor until their conditions become critical. This is understandable, given the fact that patients in rural areas have to:
- Take time off work
- Figure out the transportation
- Spend the night in another city
We can’t just accept this as a reality — that’s why both medical professionals and patients have embraced telemedicine as a viable alternative to in-person encounters.
Telemedicine offers a way to provide much-needed medical care to patients in remote areas, improves access to medical care, and facilitates the treatment of patients with chronic conditions. At the same time, telemedicine reduces unnecessary hospital admissions and can significantly reduce the treatment cost of certain conditions, such as:
- Obstructive pulmonary disease
- Sleep apnea
- Other conditions that benefit from remote patient monitoring
To understand the impact telemedicine has on modern healthcare better, let’s take a look at some of the most common ways in which telemedicine is transforming healthcare delivery.
How Telemedicine Is Transforming Healthcare Delivery
There are a number of ways in which telemedicine can aid in-person medical care and facilitate healthcare delivery.
Here are some common practical applications of telemedicine:
- Improves rural healthcare
- Helps diagnose and treat strokes faster
- Enables home rehabilitation
- Enables tele-ICU
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Helps patients with diabetes adopt a healthier behavior
- Facilitates mental health consultations
Improves Rural Healthcare
As we’ve mentioned, telemedicine greatly improves access to medical care for geographically isolated patients. The adoption of telemedicine had a significant impact on the way in which patients in the rural United States received medical care. The lack of medical facilities, physicians, and specialists in these areas is no longer a huge barrier to healthcare, given that patients can attend video appointments with doctors without having to leave their homes.
Patients no longer have to travel for half a dozen hours, then spend just as much time waiting at a hospital, or wait for days or even weeks for a doctor to visit the remote rural areas. Telemedicine in rural areas gives them a faster, easier, and cheaper way to connect with a physician and receive diagnosis and treatment.
Remote physician consultations are also extremely useful for minor health concerns and follow-ups for existing conditions. Patients have an easier, more convenient way to manage their health, while at the same time, telemedicine encounters lift the pressure from rural hospitals.
Helps Diagnose and Treat Strokes Faster
One of the major benefits of telemedicine is the speed at which the necessary medical care can be provided. For certain conditions, like patients suffering from a stroke, the speed of treatment is critical and can be the difference between life and death.
The sooner a victim of stroke receives a tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), the better. The common time frame is within three hours, but practice shows that receiving treatment within 90 minutes significantly lowers the chances of permanent brain damage and fatal outcomes.
This makes telestroke services invaluable for patients in rural and remote areas, who are often hours away from the nearest medical facility. With the use of telecommunications technology, patients or their family members can get in touch with a neurologist in minutes.
The neurologist can conduct a remote exam and, if necessary, order the administration of tPA or a transfer to a specialized healthcare facility.
Depending on the patient’s geographic location, they can be transferred either by an ambulance or a chopper, meaning the family of the patient who suffered a stroke doesn’t have to deal with transportation in these highly stressful situations.
Enables Home Rehabilitation
Treatment often doesn’t end once the patient is discharged from an ER or the ICU. Rehabilitation and continuous monitoring of their health condition are necessary for tens of thousands of patients recovering from certain medical conditions like:
- Spinal cord injury
- Various neurological conditions
- Multiple sclerosis
In most cases, these conditions make it rather difficult for patients to regularly travel to a medical facility for follow-ups, regardless if they’re in an urban or rural area. Telemedicine allows patients to undergo rehabilitation from their homes.
Doctors can conduct a cognitive or psychiatric assessment and monitor a patient’s condition remotely, allowing them to assess the recovery progress and, if needed, adjust the treatment.
Telemedicine also enables these patients to:
- Join group therapy sessions
- Get online education for their condition
- Get medical advice for their condition in minutes
- Report any symptoms or changes that might be cause for concern.
In any case, the ability to connect to a physician or specialist almost instantly, from their phone, computer, or laptop, greatly aids in the rehabilitation of patients.
Tele-ICU is a great asset for physicians and nurses in the intensive care unit. The use of modern technology provides them with an easier way to monitor patient conditions so that they can react promptly to important health signals, like a sudden change in blood pressure. It also helps them keep track of medication doses, ensuring that each patient receives the prescribed treatment at proper time intervals.
Physicians and nurses in the ICU often have to treat multiple patients, while simultaneously dealing with medical emergencies and various other distractions. Tele-ICU provides them with an overview of patients’ vital signs and facilitates access to physicians’ notes and lab results.
In this instance, telemedicine also allows remote physicians to monitor the progress of patients in the ICU closely, so they can quickly adjust the treatment and suggest new drug options when necessary. This also helps alleviate the pressure from nurses and physicians in the ICU.
Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the major causes of death around the globe. According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have at least one of three key factors for heart disease.
The key risk factors are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Prevention typically includes various lifestyle changes, like developing healthier eating habits, exercising, quitting smoking, etc. For patients that have an increased risk of a heart attack, regular visits to the doctor’s office are strongly recommended.
The trouble is, taking the time to come in for a check-up is a hassle for a large number of patients. They have to take time off work, commute and spend hours in waiting rooms. Most of them conclude that they “feel fine” and put off a visit to the doctor until their condition significantly worsens.
Telemedicine has proven to be an invaluable asset in heart disease prevention. Patients are far more likely to join cardiovascular disease management programs through telemedicine, given that it only takes minutes to jump on a video call with a healthcare provider.
Sharing medical information and receiving advice from a doctor online has proven to be a better alternative to in-person visits when it comes to heart disease prevention. It’s a faster, easier, more convenient way for patients to keep track of and manage their overall health.
Helps Patients with Diabetes Adopt Healthier Behavior
According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.4% of U.S. citizens have diabetes. That’s nearly 30 million Americans living with diabetes, so it’s no surprise that healthcare costs related to the disease surpass $100 billion annually.
Telemedicine can help diabetics manage their condition more efficiently, allowing them easier access to medical care and enables them to be active participants in their own care plans. With quick and easy access to medical professionals, telemedicine increases patient engagement and encourages diabetics to adopt healthier behavior.
Various mobile apps enable them to keep track of calories easier, monitor vital signs, log workouts, and manage medication doses. Patients can also join preventive programs, and doctors can monitor their condition more easily, as well as provide support and medical advice that would help diabetics gradually change their behavior.
Facilitates Mental Health Consultations
There’s an apparent shortage of mental health professionals in the United States. With the increasing understanding of the importance of mental health treatment in the U.S., telemedicine — or more specifically, telepsychiatry — has stepped up to help combat this issue. Today, psychiatrists can leverage modern telecommunications technology to reach patients in even the most remote geographic areas.
Another major way in which telepsychiatry, or, in other words, telehealth for mental health, helps patients is by removing the social stigma often associated with mental healthcare. Now, patients in need can receive psychiatric services from the comfort of their home, where privacy is ensured.
Remote consultations with medical specialists can also help with addiction treatment, allowing people to seek professional help in a quick and easy manner.
Understanding the Impact of Remote Healthcare Through Telemedicine Examples
So far, we’ve talked about the general applications of telemedicine, and how it can transform modern healthcare delivery. In today’s digital day and age, it’s only natural that both doctors and patients are turning to telemedicine to improve access to healthcare, eliminate distance barriers, and reduce the cost of providing and receiving medical services.
Many patients and providers are still unsure about the effectiveness of telemedicine. Is its primary purpose to aid in-person medical care, and what are its limitations?
Although telemedicine isn’t supposed to replace face-to-face medical exams and treatment, it is a much-needed alternative for millions of patients in the U.S. and all around the globe.
To understand the importance of remote healthcare services better, let’s take a look at a few real-life telemedicine examples.
Improving Access to Healthcare for Alaskans
Due to large areas with low population density in Alaska, the healthcare network in the northernmost area of the U.S. is severely underdeveloped. Some smaller villages don’t even have a nurse practitioner, let alone a doctor. Until recently, patients with serious health conditions had no other choice but to make the often difficult journey to Anchorage.
By embracing telemedicine, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium enabled patients to receive high-quality medical care from doctors and specialists remotely, without having to leave their home communities.
Effective Treatment for Congestive Heart Failure Patients in Boston
Boston’s Partners HealthCare adopted a telemedicine program for the purpose of facilitating the treatment of congestive heart failure patients. Over 3,000 patients were instructed to use monitoring devices from their homes to send data regarding their weight, blood pressure, and other relevant metrics to the organization.
By leveraging the medical data and using clinical decision support software, they were able to identify quickly which patients needed interventions, and when. This enabled a panel of four nurses to provide effective care to over 250 patients.
The program was a huge success, resulting in 44% fewer readmissions by the participants and cost savings of over $10 million. Read more about telemedicine in Massachusetts.
Veteran Health Administration’s Four-Year Telemedicine Program
Veterans Health Administration ran a four-year program that included remote patient monitoring and disease management using telemedicine for patients with various chronic conditions. Compared to traditional care, helping patients manage their conditions remotely increased patient satisfaction, reduced hospital admissions by 19%, and shortened hospital stay by 25%.
Dermatologists in San Diego Admit 50% More Patients via Telemedicine
San Diego Kaiser Permanente dermatologists embraced telemedicine and provided the referring physicians with the ability to send images and patient information for review through a secure server. By removing the need to see every patient in-person, Kaiser Permanente dermatologists were able to treat 50% more patients — or about 800 patients monthly.
Revolutionizing ICU Care in Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester turned to tele-ICU to facilitate the treatment of patients admitted to the intensive care unit.
By enabling trained intensivists to provide remote care to ICU patients, the Medical Center achieved a 20% decrease in mortality and reduced the stay time and care costs by 30%.
Handling Medical Emergencies on Ships and Cruisers
Another great example of telemedicine in action is providing medical care to sailors and guests on cruise ships. When there’s a medical emergency on a ship or a cruiser that is hundreds of miles away from land, let alone a hospital, telemedicine can be a life-saver.
During medical emergencies, ships would typically have to divert course to reach a medical facility, losing both time and money in the process, all the while racing the clock and praying they’ll make it to a medical facility in time.
A study by the International Maritime Health journal showed just how big of an impact telemedicine can have in healthcare for seafarers. It highlighted the fact that in 20% of the cases, medical services delivered remotely were sufficient to treat the patient, allowing ships to stay the course.
Have a Successful Telemedicine Start with Curogram
It’s undeniable that telemedicine offers countless benefits to both patients and healthcare providers. If you’re interested in embracing telemedicine and expanding your services to offer your patients the opportunity to receive medical care remotely, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most notably, the solution you choose must comply with the HIPAA Rules and Regulations. Since you’ll be sharing protected health information (PHI) online, you have to ensure that you do so in a safe, secure, protected environment.
Curogram is a comprehensive, fully HIPAA compliant telemedicine solution built specifically for healthcare providers. Our platform comes with built-in administrative and technical safeguards and incorporates the latest SSL technology, allowing you to treat patients remotely without having to worry about the technical details.
Curogram also integrates with virtually any EHR. You can easily synchronize your appointments from your EHR or practice management system, meaning you only have to enter appointments once!
Curogram EHR integrations
With Curogram, you don’t need to hire IT experts and medical lawyers to set up a solution for you. We’ve handled all the technical aspects for you, so you can set up your virtual clinic and start treating patients in less than 48 hours!
Another crucial thing to consider when it comes to a telemedicine solution is the ease of use. The last thing you want is to have to spend months and thousands of dollars on extensive training to ensure your doctors and medical staff know how to use the telemedicine platform properly.
There’s also the fact that complex applications will only deter patients from seeking medical care remotely. The essence of telemedicine is convenience. That’s why we’ve made sure Curogram is easy to use for doctors, medical staff, and patients alike.
Main reasons to choose Curogram
Why doctors love it
Why patients love it
Why clinics love it
Schedule a free demo today and see firsthand why Curogram is the leading telemedicine solution!