A couple of decades ago, a few healthcare professionals attempted to use telecommunication to provide off-site healthcare services. In those days, telegraph, telephone and radio were the major forms of telecommunication. Of late, with the advent of electronic communication, all technologies are within the reach of general population. This has greatly revolutionized entire world and in particular medical field. The practice of using electronic communications and information technology to address the healthcare needs of patients located at distant places is termed as telemedicine. Telemedicine has become an integral part of hospitals, homes and other healthcare units and is growing faster than expected. Many telemedicine companies now offer 24/7 healthcare services to patients in association with physicians contracted by that company.
Telemedicine, rather than being used as a tool to treat rural population, has become a convenient option to get immediate medical care. It has become a viable option in case of minor but emergency health issues. Doctors connecting with patients over phone or email; online video chat apps for consultation; smart phone health apps; user friendly, medical devices to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure and heart rate at the comfort of home are some of the instances where telemedicine comes into play in day to day life.
Telemedicine helps in better delivery of healthcare. It plays a major role in the diagnosis and prognosis of several chronic diseases and also in the effective management of same. It is regarded as one of the feasible options for those who seek a second opinion regarding the diagnosis and treatment of their medical condition. Tele-ICU helps provide cost effective automated patient vigilant systems thus alleviating nursing workforce shortage. Post hospitalization care has been made easy with the use of advanced technology wherein online resources are used to follow-up with patients and conduct the required assessments. It engages patients by increasing their level of contact with doctors in a convenient way and gets their queries addressed. This strengthens relationship between the doctor and patient resulting in better self management.
Telemedicine offers its services in various specialties including, but not limited to, radiology, psychiatry, cardiology, dermatology, surgery, ophthalmology, genetics, oncology, gastroenterology, dentistry, and geriatrics. Apart from these, there are certain common conditions such as allergies, asthma, infections, cold and flu, insect bites, inflammatory diseases, rehabilitation, sprains and strains, injuries and diarrhea (to name a few) that can be treated via telemedicine.
However, it has its own limitations owing to societal, psychological and technological barriers. The main objective of telemedicine i.e., to offer quality healthcare services to population in remote areas may sometimes remain partially served since there is a limited or no access to equipment and/or technology and also the expertise to use it in those areas. On top of it, to get acquainted with the advanced applications used to communicate with the healthcare professionals, it requires quality training which is not within the reach of everyone. Moreover, Impersonal interactions with the doctor do not give a scope for physical examination which would result in inappropriate diagnosis and treatment of underlying condition. Hence, it is of utmost importance to know the severity of the medical condition before opting for ways to get it treated or followed up.
Most important of all, reimbursement policies for patients using telemedicine differ from one payer to another and are often tricky. So it is always advisable that one should check with their payers on their reimbursement policies to avoid out-of-pocket expenses and thereby the burden of medical expenses levied. While some people feel it is okay to spend some money for the convenience telemedicine offers!
To meet the healthcare needs globally there is an immense requirement of professionals trained in healthcare management. At the James Lind Institute we conduct many health management online programs, which can be upgraded to a masters degree as well. If you would like to know more about these programs please feel free to visit this link: Online Health Management Courses