Technology continues to create opportunities for providing innovative service while reaching a larger patient base. Telemedicine has created opportunities to overcome limitations caused by distance and patients with mobility issues.
Individuals living in remote locations can receive care from doctors without having to actually visit them. This technology also allows healthcare professionals to share and discuss information as if they were all working in the same location.
Telemedicine can reduce costs and provide other benefits such as the following:
- Mobile technology can reduce the need for outpatient visits by monitoring patients remotely.
- Remote prescription verification and drug administration oversight.
- Improve medical education by creating a digital platform for experts in their fields to share and discuss best practices.
- Eliminate the spread of illness within the office since patients would not come in.
As with most new opportunities, there are a few disadvantages to be considered:
- The costs of the telecommunication and data management equipment as well as the training of the staff to use it.
- The decrease in personal interaction between doctors and patients.
- Increased risk of error when healthcare services are provided without a professional present.
- Increase risk associated with data security through electronic storage and transmission.
Other issues include the potential for poor quality of transmitted records and less access to relevant clinical information. There have also been issues associated with claim reimbursements from insurers and government programs for some telemedical practices. It is important to review the approved telehealth legislation for the state that you practice in.
There are three main categories of telemedicine; store and forward, remote monitoring, and real-time interactive.
Store and forward telemedicine refers to the acquisition and storing of clinical information that is sent to another site for evaluation. This type of telemedicine is useful in the areas of radiology, dermatology and retinal imaging. For example, in dermatology, a skin problem can often be diagnosed from a digital picture if it provided to a dermatologist. From that point, the dermatologist can send a treatment plan back to the patient’s primary physician.
Remote monitoring allows doctors and other medical professionals to monitor a patient remotely using technology. This method is typically used for managing chronic diseases and other conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma. This type of monitoring can have a great cost benefit compared to traditional office-based treatment.
Real-time medicine is useful for those looking for an alternative to visiting the doctor’s office. Real-time medicine allows for electronic consultations via telephone or video conferencing for the management, diagnosis, counseling, and monitoring of patients.
In conclusion, the advantages of using telemedicine are numerous such as electronically linking a patient’s specialist to their primary physicians, reducing costs associated with outpatient visits, managing chronic conditions, and improving healthcare provided to remote areas. With this wide range of benefits and many more, the use of telemedicine will continue to grow and provide value as an alternative to traditional patient visits.
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