All of us remember Star Trek and the famous electronic medical scans producing immediate patient information results within ten seconds. While the show made for great scientific fantasy, little did we know that the medical community was perhaps getting a glimpse of modern medicine in the form of Telemedicine.
Telemedicine, what is It?
Telemedicine, sometimes referred to as Telehealth, is the latest step in patient care using remote computer technology. While thought of as a NEW medical communication phenomenon, it actually has been evolving for over 40 years as a tool for treating patients located in rural communities inaccessible to specialized healthcare systems.
Telemedicine takes many forms:
Wireless Technology and Tools
How Does It Improve on Current Medical Care?
Telemedicine, while still finding its place in the medical care realm, offers several benefits to patients, physicians and healthcare systems alike.
Patients receive some of the greatest benefits. As well as being the original inspiration for Telemedicine’s inception, ease of access has become one of the biggest advantages for patients. With Telemedicine, patients can gain access to a physician no matter how remote their location is and despite any physical disabilities that could discourage a usual office visit. Ordinarily while rural patients might have access to a local, primary care physician, through Telemedicine these patients can easily communicate with specialists that are frequently located near major hospitals in larger cities.
Another encouraging benefit for patients is in the area of patient engagement. Often there is a drop in patient communications and follow-up care once a patient leaves the physician’s office. This drop in treatment can often manifest into a longer recovery time, complications in the disease and overall dissatisfaction by the patient. With Telemedicine follow-up care can be administered remotely via video chat or smart phone often resulting in more frequent communication and building a much stronger (and trusting) doctor-patient relationship.
For physicians Telemedicine can have dynamic results both by enhancing the quality of care provided to patients and reducing the psychological tolls paid by doctors when patients are not active in their own healthcare treatment. With Telemedicine the patient follow-up care can be monitored more closely and efficiently without increased in-office visits. Follow-up care can take the form of video chats, remote vitals’ monitoring (Heart-EKG, blood-glucose, respiratory and sleep apnea, etc.), even via iPad.
In addition, physicians can now resource with specialists to consult on patient diagnosis needs that are out of there are of expertise. Doctors working jointly on a patient will be able to access immediate updates, share information and greatly reduce the opportunities for cross-treatment errors.
Healthcare Systems and Medical Practices
Healthcare Systems and Medical Practices stand to receive some of the best improvements in the area of healthcare costs.
“A 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, “The Healthcare Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes,” indicated that of the $2.5 trillion spent on domestic healthcare costs in 2009, $765 billion (or 30%) was attributable to preventable costs…At the current growth rate, healthcare costs are expected to skyrocket to an unsustainable $4.5 trillion in 2019,” according to Forbes.com.
With Telemedicine healthcare costs can be greatly reduced via less ER visits at hospitals, better patient healthcare participation and less medical treatment inaccuracy. Smaller medical offices can experience less overhead expenditures and improved patient scheduling by balancing visits to physically address emergency care needs and more intensive patient care treatments.
Items to Work On
Still with the benefits of Telemedicine appealing to more healthcare systems and patients, there have been some concerns raised. The largest two being the loss of personal, face-to-face interaction between patients and their physicians as well as the training requirements for a medical office (and healthcare system).
Both of these concerns however can easily be addressed with proper oversight. Medical Practices are the ones who could most benefit from the Telemedicine initiative with the least amount of concern in terms of patient interaction loss. As most patients within a medical (primary care/internal medicine) practice already have an established relationship, the induction of Telemedicine communication can only enhance the patient care interaction. Patients could in fact experience more time with the doctor directly without having to come into the office. In larger healthcare systems the hurdle of less “face-to-face” patient interaction can be addressed by assuring that proper patient data is being transmitted system-wide. This procedure is already in action within many healthcare systems.
While training can still be a concern, many medical practices stepping into Telemedicine are finding that the positive results far outweigh any negative concerns.If you are ready to step in to the world of Telemedicine but do not know where to begin contact Southern Medical Consultants Group call our office directly at (404) 272-4883.