What is Telemedicine
With dwindling budgets, hospitals are struggling to find resources to employ more staff and have space for more consultation rooms. This has led to an increase in GP and hospital waiting times. For a decade, researchers have searched for how technology could be incorporated to make the systems more efficient. The Coronavirus pandemic leads to an acceleration in the search for solutions in how to continue treating patients with the restrictions put in place. The application of these solutions continued after covid due to their effectiveness. The one which we will be discussing today is Telemedicine.
Telemedicine as an umbrella term means the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients. This diagnosis and treatment can be delivered through computers, cameras, video conferencing, calling and the internet.
A primary aim of telemedicine is to make healthcare easier for people that live in more remote locations where there is not a GP or hospital nearby. Common objectives of telehealth are to improve patient outcomes, increase patient engagement and satisfaction, reduce the cost of care, and reduce in-person visits.
How does it work?
So, how does telemedicine work exactly? Telemedicine works very simply, traditionally it uses an online account or a phone number. The patient can request an appointment while providing basic information on their condition and submitting a requested time/ date. The physician then either accepts, declines, or schedules the appointment based on their own availability.
Telemedicine provides insight into the future of mobile healthcare. Its applications can be extended to delivering healthcare to patients travelling abroad or even across the country who require aid and would like to be treated by their regular doctor. It will also make a substantial difference to patients who have the inability to leave the house due to sickness or mobility issues, which once again reiterates the purpose of telemedicine which is to deliver quality healthcare to people equally no matter disability, financial status, or other factors.
Telemedicine allows for more convenience, money-saving, and time-saving among other benefits. Often people will not want to travel out of the house during cold, rainy, or snowy weather and will even sacrifice needed doctor visits due to the inconvenience of leaving the house and travelling to the doctor’s office. Telemedicine provides a solution to this. Doctors’ appointments can often cause people to need to leave work early or even take the day off to leave the office, doctor appointments can now happen at an agreed time while remaining in a private area of the workplace. It will save money for both the patient and physician as the patient does not have to leave work and the physician will not lose out due to cancellations or no-shows. Patients will save time by not travelling to the surgery. It will also allow simple appointments needed to renew prescriptions to take place virtually saving time for the GP and patient.
The drawbacks of telemedicine are areas that will hopefully see improvement in the coming years. Doctors are having to rely on patients to take and provide accurate readings of their temperature, heart rate, etc. It will never be possible to recreate the hands-on element of an in-person visit, with the doctor unable to touch or feel the patient, it may become more difficult to determine what the issue is. Solutions to this will be discussed in greater depth at the 2nd Digital Health Innovation Summit.
The telehealth industry has faced rapid advancement due to the Covid pandemic, fast-tracking the developments. This includes the screening of patients before they enter the care facility, boosting collaboration between healthcare providers, allowing for greater training between an expert and a trainee physician during online consultation calls as the expert does not have to be physically present to observe the call and it also allows for greater monitoring of a patient outside of the office.
Telemedicine will become an instrumental part of the healthcare sector over the next decade. However, some limitations can never replace the effectiveness of an in-person visit.