What is Telemedicine Technology?
Telemedicine is not new, although it seems that way to many people. It was developed more than 40 years ago as a way to use technology to bring medical diagnoses and care to individuals in remote parts of the world.
Telemedicine now involves using modern technology and telecommunications for doctors to visit their patients in a virtual manner, usually over live video or through still images captured and saved for their reference on a computer. This healthcare tool is invaluable for anyone whether that person is living in the heart of Los Angeles or in the midst of the Brazilian Amazon.
It is important to note that Telemedicine is not a separate specialty in medicine. There is virtually no distinction in the way in which a doctor of specialty group is reimbursed for this method of care versus in-house visits.
To illustrate how this tool works, imagine you have a severe sore throat. You make an appointment with your doctor or you walk in to your provider’s office. You get a thorough examination and the doctor determines the problem is something requiring an ENT referral, visit and treatment plan.
Without Telemedicine, going to that ENT could mean a 45 minute drive or a day’s travel by boat along the Amazon. If you are already not feeling well, this situation would be most unwelcome. With Telemedicine, however, the visit to the ENT could mean being connected by video to the specialist where you receive an instant diagnosis and treatment.
There are definite benefits to a consultation performed via video. The doctor or specialist hears your symptoms directly from you not from a note he receives in the mail 10 business days after your initial consultation with your primary care doctor.
In the above example, your sore throat could actually be further checked out by the ENT directly using a peripheral called a nasopharyngoscope. You would be at your attending physician’s office and that doctor would pass the peripheral into your nasal passage allowing the ENT to see the results immediately through his video connection to your doctor’s connection. This would allow the ENT to provide a quick assessment of the problem and recommend a course of treatment.
The Usage Models Of Telemedicine
The most common use is real-time usage. The example above shows how the patient, doctor and specialist can all communicate together at the same time to get the best outcome for the patient.
Real-time can be used for in or outpatient specialty consultations as well as with physician supervision of a non-MD clinician such as a nurse practitioner.
Store and Forward is another type of usage. This is where a primary physician and specialist, for example, are not available for video conferencing at the same time. The data on the patient is then stored using dictation, photos, video and radiology imaging and forwarded to the specialist. It may be this information is placed on a server for the specialist to access and offer a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Telemedicine And Home Health
Any patient that is put the hospital and placed under observation after surgery is taking up a valuable bed. In addition, if the patient is doing well, he or she probably would rather finish recovering at home. Enter remote video observation of a patient. Home health Telemedicine captures vital signs, offers video conferencing options and alarms that can sound at a nurse’s station.
This form of Telemedicine can often be conducted using analog telephone systems, although higher-bandwidth systems are often also supported. The areas where this type of tool can be most helpful include post-hospital care, assisted living facilities and disease management.
This tool can still be used in rural or remote areas and it is indispensible in offering patients local healthcare from specialists in larger metropolitan areas. In remote areas, this means a boost in confidence in the local health care system.
For a rural patient’s community, this tool means more money for local health facilities. Instead of traveling to larger cities to purchase medical equipment or prescriptions, rural residents can get everything they need locally, keeping money where it belongs in their community.
For all patients, this tool can mean they get to stay in their community to be with family and friends. They save money by not having to travel across country to see a specialist. Additionally, urgent care is immediate care.
For providers of this tool, they see benefits in being able to reach a greater expanse of patients. Major surgical procedures can be approved by an initial Telemedicine consultations. Finally, they get to see less of a turnout at already overcrowded ER rooms.
Telemedicine can be used to give any hospital or medical facility instant access to medical experts, specialists and to more education and information. It is the way to share all resources immediately with any hospital or clinic in the world.