Telemedicine is referred to as the use of communication technology and electronic devices like mobiles which allows doctors to assess, diagnose and treat the patient from a distance. It started in the 1950s and in the last 2 decades when the general population started using technology, telemedicine is developing rapidly. It has become a complex integrated service used in hospitals, homes, private physician offices, and other healthcare facilities.
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It started with the mission to make the healthcare system more accessible to provide healthcare services to remote locations and rural areas. But now with the increase in the general population having access to internet services and smartphones, telemedicine is slowly becoming the go-to tool for convenient health care. The urban population is benefiting the most as telemedicine provides quicker services without waiting and traveling time while sitting in the comfort of their room.
Telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits has the following benefits:
Easy access to health care services
Saves health care cost
Decrease exposure to other contagious patients
Increase access to specialist consultation
Remote post-hospitalization care
Patients who can not travel, are homebound, live in a remote location, or are physically disabled can access care virtually. Video conferencing can help doctors see the patient's condition and help communicate better.
It cuts down the waiting time and the time required for travel to a healthcare facility. Doctors can also manage appointment schedules easily.
Telemedicine allows electronic data storage, reduces repeated follow up visits, cuts down transportation expenses reducing the overall cost of healthcare services
Decrease exposure to communicable diseases:
Since patients don’t have to physically go to a hospital, they don’t come in contact with other patients and thus don’t contract any communicable diseases or hospital-acquired infections.
Like in COVID Pandemic when everyone was afraid to go to hospitals to avoid covid exposure, telemedicine played a pivotal role in acting as an enabler to help many patients in need. Also, helped the people who were home-quarantined to keep in touch with their doctor for continuous analysis of the disease progression
Access to specialist consultation:
Specialists are not available in every city or remote location and before any major surgery or medical intervention, people tend to take consultations with multiple specialists for second opinion and telemedicine makes it easy to consult a specialist in a distant location.
Remote post-hospitalization care:
Reduces the number of days post-surgery. Helps patients to keep in constant touch with doctors and allows doctors to do frequent follow-ups which reduces hospital readmissions.
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Not only for the patients, but telemedicine is also beneficial to the doctors
Fewer missed appointments
Better patient follow-through
These benefits have improved the disease outcomes drastically and have improved health care quality.
Various Forms of Telemedicine
STORE AND FORWARD (asynchronous telemedicine):
This is more or less likely an email where the patient has to acquire medical images or biosignals and send them to the doctor via a sophisticated built-in platform that has features to ensure patient confidentiality.
REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING (telemonitoring):
This allows healthcare professionals to track patients’ vitals like Heart rate, Temperature, Blood pressure, and Blood sugar level and is extensively used in chronic disease management like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or communicable diseases like covid.
The patient and doctor interact in real-time via video conferencing or mobile chatting and the patient can get immediate advice.
Common Specialities that are using Telemedicine
Radiology- Radiologists get high-quality images and provide feedback no matter where they are.
Psychiatry- Patients can speak, chat, or video conference with their therapists through mobile apps.
Dermatology- Patients send high-quality pictures or videos of rashes or any skin infection and send them to their doctors.
Pediatric- Parents don’t have to bring their sick child to hospitals and can directly just video conference doctors to get a quick consultation.
Geriatrics- Elderly people who need chronic disease management can consult the doctors frequently.
Telemedicine software is advancing at a much faster rate than the traditional methods. With the incorporation of Artificial intelligence and electronic medical record, diseases can be diagnosed more quickly and easily.
Patients just have to log on the symptoms in a mobile app
AI diagnosis analyses and provides several possible diagnoses
Patients can then directly consult a doctor through the app itself
The whole process is easy and it’s obvious that patients love it as in today’s society, people love doing everything with their mobiles and computers.
1. Brian William Hasselfeld, Benefits of Telemedicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine. [Link]
2. Monaghesh, E., Hajizadeh, A. The role of telehealth during COVID-19 outbreak: a systematic review based on current evidence. BMC Public Health20, 1193 (2020). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-020-09301-4
3. Arefa Cassoobhoy, How Does Telemedicine Work? , 2021. [WebMD]