What are Telehealth and Telemedicine?
Telehealth encompasses the preventative, promotive, and curative aspects of healthcare and the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications equipment. Telemedicine is the use of secure videoconferencing and progressive information technologies for the delivery of quality healthcare from a distance, vastly improving the accessibility, availability, and cost-effectiveness of providing such clinical services to more people in underserved rural and urban locations throughout the US and around the world.
Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to Telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Beginning over forty years ago with demonstrations of hospitals extending care to patients in rural areas, Telemedicine has spread rapidly and is now becoming integrated into the on-going operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices, as well as consumers’ homes and workplaces.
Almost any medical specialty can integrate Telemedicine. Primary Care, Chronic Care Management, Health Education, Cardiology, Dermatology, Immunology, Mental Health, Radiology; the applications are virtually endless. Studies show that many technologically sophisticated consumers are actively looking for health-related information on the Internet, and are eager to explore more cost-effective, interactive methods of receiving quality healthcare.
Telemedicine is not about the use of technology for its own sake; medicine is always about providers, patients, quality of service, and the financial needs of all concerned. Telemedicine is but another tool that can be used to provide quality healthcare to all individuals regardless of geographic location.
The Telemedicine model
The Telemedicine model introduces a breakthrough in the healthcare delivery and support system. It enables physicians to remotely access their patients for observations, routine office visits, and consultations, without requiring the cost of travel in terms of both money and time. A qualified professional can perform the same routine exam procedures completed at all doctors’ offices, using interactive medical equipment, with the real-time guidance of the remote physician via secure videoconferencing.
Below is a visual interpretation of a standard doctor’s office visit, conducted via Telemedicine.
As illustrated, the physician has the convenience of performing the consultation/examination from the comfort of his office on the east coast, while the patient, located on the west coast, has the availability to consult with a physician located cross country without having to travel. With an aid of a qualified medical professional, the doctor can perform a series of tests that otherwise would not be available through the use of standard video conferencing. The doctor can see the patient’s vital signs, listen to their heart and lung sounds, and perform more extensive procedures like ultrasound scans and ECG readouts, all from the comfort of his/her office.
The above is just a single example of how Telemedicine can improve the availability and reduce the cost of quality healthcare throughout the US and around the world. This model can be adapted to a wide array of institutions, clinics, centers, and mobile units. We can furnish them with progressive, innovative tools to provide quality healthcare to underserved, rural and urban locations.