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This article is supposed to enlighten the reader on Telemedicine. With any new development in the technology industry there is bound to be consequences, both positive and negative.
What is telemedicine? It is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.
Aside from connecting patients and medical providers, telemedicine also offers a way for health care professionals to consult with other physicians or specialists in the diagnosis or treatment of a patient without having to leave their own facilities.
Telemedicine has been around for decades in some way or another. But with the giant leaps in technology that the world has experienced over the last two decades, it is only now that telemedicine is really beginning to take a place in the field of health care delivery.
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology such as phones and computers to provide clinical services to patients over long distance communication. Through phone calls, emails, mobile apps, and even video chat, health care professionals are able to diagnose and treat patients without the need for long travels or in-person hospital visits.
In the early days, telemedicine was used mostly to connect doctors working with a patient in one location to specialists somewhere else. This was of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists aren’t readily available. Throughout the next several decades, the equipment necessary to conduct remote visits remained expensive and complex, so the use of the approach, while growing, was limited.
The rise of the internet age brought with it profound changes for the practice of telemedicine. The proliferation of smart devices, capable of high-quality video transmission, opened up the possibility of delivering remote healthcare to patients in their homes, workplaces or assisted living facilities as an alternative to in-person visits for both primary and specialty care.
Today the telemedicine field is changing faster than ever before. As technology advances at exponential levels, so does the widespread affordability and accessibility to basic telemedicine tools. For example, not only do we now have the technology for live video telemedicine, but much of the U.S. population has experience using online videochat apps (like Skype or Facetime), and access to a computer or mobile device to use them.
Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, far away from local health facilities or in areas of with shortages of medical professionals. While telemedicine is still used today to address these problems, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care. Today’s connected patient wants to waste less time in the waiting room at the doctor, and get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they need it.
This expectation for more convenient care, combined with the unavailability of many overburdened medical professionals (especially primary care providers), has led to the rise of telemedicine companies. Many offer patients 24/7 access to medical care with an on-call doctor contracted by that company. Others offer hospitals and larger health centers access to extra clinical staff and specialists, for outsourcing of special cases (common model among teleradiology companies). Still others provide a telemedicine platform for physicians to use to offer virtual visits with their own patients. Increasingly, telemedicine is becoming a way to give medical practices an edge in a competitive healthcare landscape where it’s difficult to stay independent or maintain a healthy bottom line.
Also impacting the rise of telemedicine today is the growing mobile health field. With the wide variety of mobile health apps and new mobile medical devices that are consumer-friendly, patients are starting to use technology to monitor and track their health. Simple home-use medical devices that can take vitals and diagnose ear infections, monitor glucose levels, or measure blood pressure let patients gather needed medical information for a doctor’s diagnosis, without going into the doctor’s office. And again, as more patients get proactive about using technology to manage their health, they also will be more open to alternative ways to get care – through telemedicine!
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