Telemedicine is sweeping through the health care industry, utilizing the latest technology to break down barriers between patients and caregivers. It’s a powerful trend that enables doctors to easily (and immediately) connect with people when they aren’t able to be in the same location. Devices, platforms, and tools continue to be developed to support telemedicine, because it is truly a win-win-win for patients, providers, and payers.
Telemedicine is formally defined by the American Telemedicine Association as the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smartphones, wireless tools, and other forms of telecommunications technology. The services provided can include primary care and specialist referral services, remote patient monitoring, consumer medical and health information, and medical education.
Imagine a farmer in a rural town who can use his iPad® to get a consult from a leading specialist on the opposite coast. Or an elderly woman in her home who can discuss symptoms by videoconferencing with her physician on her computer (without having to worry about setting up an appointment or arranging a ride). Telemedicine means faster, more cost-efficient care for people who need it. It means more patients can be helped more quickly by doctors with improved workflow. It means payers have better documented information from those digital interactions and can process payments more quickly. It means change for health care as a whole, and that translates into opportunity.
These top trends outlined by Hands On Telehealth are at the forefront of the telemedicine revolution:
- Patient-Centered Tools: These allow individuals to gain more knowledge and control over their own health and care, which supports ongoing health care consumerism. More digital, home-based wellness tools are being promoted to consumers as a way to prevent unnecessary utilization costs.
- Financial Benefits: Mobile and web-based tools are being used to streamline processes (such as registering, discussing charges and insurance coverage, and paying bills) and reduce wasted time (such as traveling to doctors’ offices and waiting for exams). These improved efficiencies translate to lower costs for hospitals and providers, and therefore lower costs for patients as well.
- Check out this article on RealBusiness.com about how telemedicine can cut costs and boost revenue for hospitals.
- Health and Wellness: For patients with multiple chronic conditions, effective post-discharge care plans are critical to maintaining improved health and avoiding costly rehospitalizations. These after-care programs can now be accessed easily via mobile devices. Progress and vitals can be tracked digitally, and those records can become invaluable to doctors who need thorough medical histories or constant monitoring of recovering patients (without those patients having to stay at the hospital).
- Security and Privacy: With new, digital methods for storing and transferring sensitive patient data, maintaining the security of that data is a large concern. IT departments struggle in many cases to keep up with new platforms and update security systems to maintain protection.
- Cloud: Much of this data ends up being stored in the cloud, which offers the ability to store, access, and transmit information without worrying about server space. With cloud solutions come some of those same security concerns.
- Medical Instruction: Seminars, classes, and real procedures can be shared from any location with medical students using telemedicine platforms and strategies. This opens up a world of better training for medical professionals who can see and experience things they may not have been able to before.
- Read this Forbes article about how Google Glass is changing medical education.
Telemedicine is revolutionizing the way the health care ecosystem connects and interacts. It’s an exciting field that encompasses rapidly advancing technology to address inefficiencies. The multitude of benefits are noteworthy, and we’re looking forward to where this trend takes health care next.