You may have already used it without even realizing it. Have you ever relayed questions about your health to your doctor or health care professional and then received an answer via email? Have you consulted with a nurse over the telephone? Have you ever shown an injury or physical ailment to your doctor via emailed photos or a webcam? Well, you may not have realized it, but you were using telemedicine.
What Exactly Is Telemedicine?
Health care practices continue to evolve with technological advances that integrate computer applications and patient information management into telemedicine systems.
In the broadest sense, telemedicine can be defined as the use of information technology to provide patient care, and share clinical information from one geographic location to another. When health care companies and providers employ telemedicine, they can reduce costs while increasing access to health care.
How Is Telemedicine Being Used By Doctors And Patients?
With the advent of faster internet connections, and the accessibility to the internet via multiple consumer devices (i.e. smartphones, tablets, laptop computers), many health providers are using electronic communications to deliver health care in unprecedented ways. These innovations are providing patients with a whole new level of access to medical care.
Telemedicine gives health care providers the ability to have remote consultation, diagnosis and treatment of medical problems. It also allows for the sharing of medical information and imagery, even across state lines and national borders. If you cannot travel to the other side of the country to be seen by a top specialist in a certain area of medical expertise, telemedicine can overcome that geographical distance.
Not only are doctors using telemedicine to treat their patients, they are also using it to consult with other physicians. Sometimes, when a split-second decision is needed for a patient who is in the midst of a heart attack or stroke, doctors can now contact specialists-allowing them to view the patient from a remote site and formulate an emergency medical opinion, all in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, patients are using new devices that enable them to relay their blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose and other vital signs directly to their doctors, electronically. This allows a new level of monitoring and management of chronic conditions by doctors, while patients remain in the comfort of their own home.
Telemedicine Allows Health Care To Be Delivered To Remote Areas And Smaller Health Care Facilities
It is estimated that, between five to ten times a day, Doctors Without Borders relays questions and answers about patients with difficult cases located in Niger, South Sudan and elsewhere, to its network of 280 specialists around the world, via the internet.
There is a facility located in the woods, just outside of St. Louis, where shifts of 330 doctors, nurses and staff work around the clock in what many describe as “a hospital without beds”. There are no patients at this facility. The Mercy health system’s new Virtual Care Center provides remote support for intensive-care units, emergency rooms and other programs in 38 smaller hospitals from North Carolina to Oklahoma.
Many smaller facilities have limited resources, and therefore limited on-site medical staff. Telemedicine provides those facilities with access to much needed care by specialists – when needed, upon demand.
These are just a few examples of how telemedicine is providing improved access to medical care, to patients, medical facilities, even other doctors.
If you are interested in exploring how telemedicine can help you better serve your patients, doctors and medical facilities in any part of the country, please call TeleMed2U at 855-446-TM2U (8628).