What is Telecare?
Definition of Telecare
The definition of telecare has changed over time as new technology has shaped the face of modern telemedicine. The basic definition of telecare is “care offered to patients remotely via telecommunications technology, either through synchronous (live video) or asynchronous means (store-and-forward, remote patient monitoring).” Telecare is often used to expand patient access to care, help patients manage recovery and well-being at home, and remotely monitor risks or early warning signs of health conditions. The care could be handled through a range of technology – from telephones to online virtual visits to remote patient monitoring centers.
Social and lifestyle monitoring are also included under Telecare. One growing example is the use of remote monitoring centers to provide assistance to the elderly, monitoring for any warning signs of falls or unusual behavior patterns that might be a red flag for needed intervention. Some telecare systems will also note the environment, and whether the person is unconscious, and trigger the required response.
As this example shows, telecare encompasses a broader category than telemedicine since it is used for more purposes than just facilitating remote medical treatment between healthcare providers and patients.
Mobile phone technology is now in vogue to help monitor such situations outside of the home. Since many mobile devices now include GPS tracking, telecare is now more accessible than ever.
Many systems will also help the person to receive immediate feedback on their environment, health, or situation, which can alleviate memory issues and help the person to maintain their dignity and independence.
In many cases, telecare systems can help to deliver appropriate help from a neighbor, an ambulance, or even the police department to the person. This is a vital part of all telecare systems and can be mediated via routing through dedicated call centers, making it easy to keep in touch with the required telecare services.
Example Of Telecare Devices and Systems
There are three basic types of telecare systems to help people requiring remote care:
1. Telecare Prediction Systems
Telecare systems that fall under the prediction category can help predict issues before they arise. Such systems will use software that senses and analyzes data for red flags or escalations in the severity of the person’s condition. This can include a minor fall, if the person is in need of assistance and so on. It can graph the patterns in the person’s data and this data can be used to help determine if help is needed or required. It can also monitor sleep and whether or not the person is up wandering around.
2. Telecare Sensor Systems
Telecare systems in the sensor category can help reduce common issues by sensing the person’s environment and activating when an anomaly occurs. For example, bed sensors might be set to activate if the person is not in bed during set times (indicating they may be wandering, or have fallen). These sensor systems can show that the person is moving around and approximately where they are located.
3. Mitigate Harm
This type of alarm is a pendant that the user wears so that they can activate the alarm if they need assistance. Heat sensors and smoke detectors as well as bed sensors are all set to note this pendant. They will then send an alarm to the call center after a specific event in order to arrive in time to assist the person. The sensors can also be triggered if the person doesn’t return to bed within a predetermined amount of time, if the person appears to be wandering around, etc. If the person doesn’t press a specific button at a preset time on a daily basis the alarms can also trigger.
Telehealth, eHealth and mHealth
Sometimes the terminology around telecare, telemedicine, telehealth, and other niches within the digital health field can seem very vague. In part, this is because the field is changing so rapidly that we’re still settling on stand terminology.
Generally, telecare may encompass any of the previously mentioned areas of treatment and care for patients. It can include remote monitoring and remote medical practices. Telehealth is generally used more specifically to describe telemedicine, which is remote treatment by a doctor, or different devices and apps used to manage popular and personal health (fitness tracker, CDC health alerts).
The definition of telehealth has now expanded to include those who are being monitored via mobile phones. It can also help to relay information regarding those who need support in independent living as they are older, disabled or vulnerable. So there is overlap between the terms telehealth and telecare in many cases.
Remote patient monitoring included in telehealth is often used for patients in remote areas and can include sending physiological data from a patient to medical staff at a local clinic or remote facility. It can aid in diagnosis and help to add support to patients requiring monitoring and more. It can aid with lung function issues, diabetes and more. Imagine being able to relay temperature, vital signs, blood pressure and more without having to leave home. It’s ideal for clinical reviews and keeping the patient in touch with the doctor.
- Glucose monitoring
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Cardiac monitoring of arrhythmia
- Asthma monitoring
- Reminding patients to take medications
The benefits are clear and simple and can impact patient lives all over the globe.
- They will feel safer if they know someone is always nearby.
- They may require fewer routine checkups.
- They might not have to spend as much time in the hospital.
- They may wish to do more self managed care and get engaged in their health plan.
What is the Future of Telecare?
As noted, much of telecare technology is merging with telehealth. In the future, it’s likely that they will be essentially the same field. Individuals believe in the benefits and many are turning to such measures to help sway the cost of medical care. While more research is required, telecare is definitely the wave of the future.
As people search for better ways to manage their health and remain independent, many are turning to telecare. Such emerging technology is only the beginning in making this happen.
For more in depth investigation, it’s wise to seek out the exact terminology and examine what the telehealth care actually involves for any specific use. The UK and US both have guidelines that will help to monitor and guide patients and health care users through this process.
Health care has evolved from a time where the doctor rode the horse to his patients houses and cared for them, to modern technology whereby the patient can wear a simple monitoring device and check in daily if need be. No longer are patients required to find a ride to the doctor and have their ride wait for hours while they wait to be seen. With this modern technology, health care has gotten an upgrade.