What is Telehealth?
Telehealth solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Telehealth software allows healthcare professionals to deliver health services, education or training, and health information remotely, using telecommunications technology. Unlike telemedicine solutions, which focus more specifically on clinical services, telehealth solutions cover a broader range health services. Health professionals might use a telehealth solution to train healthcare staff, engage and educate patients about a preventative health topic online, or remotely monitor a patient’s recovery after hospital discharge.
The key focus of many of these telehealth software solutions? Leveraging telecommunications technologies to make health and information services more convenient and efficient. And of course, increasing the quality of patient care and raising patient engagement. Telehealth tools can be an incredibly powerful way of making widespread healthcare and health education more accessible – especially to remote parts of the U.S. and the world.
Since telehealth can mean so many different things, there’s an incredible range of telehealth solutions available to physicians and other healthcare providers. In recent years, many healthcare specialties have started applying telecommunications technologies to their preventative, patient education, treatment, and patient monitoring services.
Here are some of the most popular telehealth solutions specialties:
What are the different types of telehealth solutions?
Some telehealth providers offer software and other tools across many different specialties, but many focus on a niche specialty or certain mode of telehealth.
What do we mean by mode of telehealth? Well, consider how many different ways there are to share health information and engage with patients, physicians, and other healthcare staff. Here are just a few of the most common types of telehealth solutions:
Store and forward telehealth solutions
Store and forward telehealth technology (sometimes also called “asynchronous telehealth”) allows healthcare professionals to share a patient’s medical images, videos, or health information with a physician at a different location. This allows a medical professional to review a medical case without requiring the patient to be present. It’s also a very commonly used telehealth solution in remote areas, or places with limited specialists available. A secure messaging system is a type of store-and-forward telehealth software.
While store-and-forward telehealth solution are popular with almost all medical specialties, they’re especially common in radiology, dermatology, and ophthalmology. For example, doctors based in small, remote hospitals may send X-rays to radiologists at other locations. It’s also relatively easy for a primary care provider to take a photo of a patient’s skin condition or eyes and forward to a dermatologist or ophthalmologist for quick screenings or further consultation.
Store and forward telehealth is an effective way to boost healthcare efficiency since a physician, patient, and specialist don’t need to be in the same place at the same time. That means lower patient wait times, easy access to specialists (even in places with shortages of providers), and an optimized schedule for the physician, who can review the case when they have time.
Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring telehealth solutions (sometimes also called “home telehealth” or “telemonitoring”) allow physicians to track a patient’s health from afar. A patient with diabetes, for example, can use a glucose tracker at home to measure levels of glucose and transmit them to their physician. Remote monitoring makes it easy for patients and doctors to stay in constant communication with very little effort or coordination; many remote monitoring telehealth solutions automate the patient’s data transmission process and either send the doctor a regular report, or allow them to “check-in” on the patient on their schedule. Some RPM telehealth software systems also let physicians consult with patients remotely via live video. This means better treatment adherence, less appointments, less emergency visits because of unforeseen problems, and overall better patient outcomes.
Many physicians use remote patient monitoring to follow-up with patients after discharge from a hospital or other care facility. But RPM telehealth solutions are also becoming an increasingly popular way to monitor high-risk patients and catch problems before patients land in the hospital — especially for those with chronic conditions and patients who have trouble getting to a doctor’s office.
With the rise of wearable technology and mobile medical devices, telehealth providers are starting to offer software and tools that not only connect the patient and physician, but actually capture patients’ medical data. More mobile medical devices come out every day that monitor vital signs, check for ear infections, incorporate ECG sensors, etc. Fitness trackers also get patients engaged in their preventative health and keep physicians updated on things like weight loss, exercise, and general health.
Mobile health solutions
Mobile health refers to healthcare, patient engagement, patient education, and public health programs offered via mobile devices like cell phones, laptops, and tablets. mHealth makes up a huge part of telehealth software solutions, especially since a majority of people now own a smartphone. mHealth solutions usually take the form of mobile apps. They can be as simple as an app that texts patients reminders to take their medications, to a more complex app that connects patients to physicians via live 2-way video (like the eVisit mobile app!). Some mHealth software focuses on educating users about health issues, or better engaging them in their care. As far as telehealth solutions go, mHealth is one of the fast growing and most varied modes of telehealth.
Real-time telehealth (sometimes called “synchronous telehealth”) involves 2-way, live communication between a physician and patient, usually via video. This type is probably what you envision when you hear “telehealth.” Real-time telehealth solutions are meant to substitute for an in-person doctor-patient visit whenever possible. For example, if a patient suspects s/he has an infection and needs to get quick treatment but cannot get in to see the doctor, s/he could use a real-time telehealth solution to consult his/her doctor remotely and get a necessary prescription. Synchronous telehealth software can also be used for preventative services, or for quick follow-ups after operation or discharge to answer patient questions.
Real-time telehealth providers offer a range of solutions and technology. Some offer entire telehealth “stations” that need to be installed at both the doctor’s office and in the patient’s home or facility (often used in long-term care facilities). Others let patients logon to a secure website from their homes and see a physician contracted by the telehealth company to provide care. The eVisit app, on the other hand, is a real-time telehealth app that connects physicians with their existing patients for preventative care, urgent care, patient education, follow-up checks, and disease management. Real-time telehealth software like the eVisit app combines the best offerings of telehealth solutions out there – low-cost, well-designed, minimal set-up, and easy-to-use technology that allows for convenient, accessible remote healthcare.
Distance medical consultation and education for providers
Telehealth software isn’t always made for patients. Healthcare providers are increasingly using telehealth solutions for remote consultation and medical education. A top medical specialist based in California could review a patient case with medical students, or a team of providers in Florida to share their expertise. A primary care provider could consult a specialist at another location about a tough patient case through live telehealth video. A healthcare provider in the U.S. could share a new medical technique or provide training on a public health issue to a team of doctors in a remote, third-world country via phone or an online conference. The possibilities and telehealth solutions in this case are endless.
The eVisit app is a real-time telehealth solution that allows healthcare to connect with their existing patients via secure, high-resolution, 2-way video. Unlike other telehealth providers, the eVisit app is a physician-first tool built for physicians, by physicians, and was designed to facilitate reimbursement for remote patient visits. An affordable telehealth solution for SMB healthcare providers; scalable for larger healthcare systems. The eVisit app brings convenient, high-quality remote care to patients from their own doctor.