5 Ways Telemedicine is Revolutionizing Healthcare
If you’re not familiar with the term “telemedicine”, chances are you’ve already experienced its benefits yourself without realizing it. To put it simply, telemedicine is any aspect of healthcare in which telecommunication technology is used. This could include a video chat with your doctor in order to check on your progress at home, smartphone applications that offer you access to healthcare options via your insurance provider, the long-distance monitoring of a pacemaker or other device, or the sharing of medical information with an off-site specialist for immediate review while you’re undergoing a procedure. Regardless of its application, telemedicine allows healthcare to come to you; it also creates an immediate connection with necessary care across what was formerly a gap in communication.
According to a survey taken by the National Business Group on Health, 2016 will see an increase in 48 percent when it comes to the number of employers who offer telehealth benefits to their employees. Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits that come along with telemedicine access:
- It’s a Time-Saver
Ask yourself how much time a doctor’s visit typically takes. If your answer is about ten to 15 minutes, it’s likely that all you’re adding is your time spent with the doctor, and not the time spent traveling, waiting… and potentially waiting some more. As the Huffington Post reported, the average patient spends 86 minutes in the clinic and 38 minutes on travel, and those numbers only increase in the case of minorities or the unemployed. Telemedicine communications, like the availability of on-call physicians reachable by phone or video chat, or online patient portals where patients can contact physicians directly, can save you a lot of time in the long run. Besides, if you’ve ever been laid up in bed with the flu and your employer is demanding a doctor’s note, you’ve felt the stress of wondering how you’re going to manage to get up and out of the house in time—or if you’ll have to sit in an urgent care waiting room for hours in the event that your physician isn’t available.
- Ease of Rehabilitation and Patient Monitoring
After an injury, outpatient rehabilitation services can be costly, and travel can make it difficult to attend multiple appointments per week. However, telemedicine can help provide online medical resources, live video stream sessions with physical therapists, and long-distance monitoring of rehabilitation progress.
Other conditions can benefit from remote monitoring as well. If you’re following a nutrition or exercise plan, for example, you might use a pedometer or BMI calculator to communicate your progress to your doctor. You might even use telemedicine for check-ins on something like smoking cessation treatment or medication reminders.
- Greater Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
The ability to use video conferencing and screen sharing, which are nowadays made simple and accessible by platforms such as Blue Jeans, makes it easier to access help when you need it. If you’re struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, you might find yourself needing fast access—or even emergency access—to someone you can talk to. Using video conferencing as part of telemedicine can get you in contact with therapy groups or psychiatrists who can provide you with support. As part of outpatient therapy after detox treatment or an inpatient program, telemedicine might boost the success rates of patients who otherwise wouldn’t have access to services when they need it most.
- Ease of Care in Rural Areas
Telemedicine makes it easier for patients in remote areas to get in contact with doctors and receive preventive care in situations where it would otherwise be difficult. The costs of travel and the time involved to see a doctor might be the deciding factor in whether or not someone with little financial resource living far outside a major city seeks help, for example. By having remote access to physicians or resources provided by physicians via the Internet, smartphone app, or telephone line, patients can access preventive care and don’t have to wait until a condition warrants a trip to the emergency room.
- Helps Avoid Unnecessary Transfers
If you’re in the midst of receiving emergency medical care, or if you’re undergoing a long medical procedure, chances are you’ll want to have everything over with as soon as possible. By using telemedicine solutions like video conferencing, your physician can immediately get in touch with an off-site specialist if necessary. For example, if you find yourself needing an x-ray or MRI, the technician can have a remote radiologist read your results. It’s easier to get in touch with your other doctors, and seek their advice if necessary. Plus, test results can easily be transmitted to off-site specialists.
Overall, telemedicine lowers the need for multiple transfers between facilities in order to receive different types of care.
As U.S. News and World Report observed, telemedicine isn’t just the future; it’s now. As the appropriate technology becomes widely implemented in healthcare facilities, there’s no telling how many more advances will streamline healthcare and improve accessibility for all.