Today, people are becoming more tech-savvy and even more aware of their health thanks to the internet and a variety of health care apps. Their demand to deliver quality care at lower cost is putting healthcare professionals and organizations under tremendous pressure. Furthermore, the shift from volume-based care to value-based care is pushing them to find new ways. In the midst of these conditions, Telehealth is emerging as one of the viable solutions for them to opt for. This solution holds the promise to significantly impact some of the most challenging issues of the current healthcare system that involve access to care, cost-effective delivery, and distribution of limited providers.
What is Telehealth?
According to WHO, telehealth involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver health care outside of traditional health-care facilities. It is the most basic element of “eHealth,” which uses a wider range of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Meanwhile, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines it as “The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”
Foreseeing the future, technology has the power to not only enhance the quality of healthcare but also make it more accessible to people. It is going to become a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery.
Comprehensive Services Related To Healthcare
One of the key aims of telehealth is to enhance the existing trusted relationship between provider and patient. The services offered by it can be delivered through a variety of methods including telecommunications, remote patient monitoring tools such as wearable technology, live video chatting, electronic record transmittal, and mobile health (mHealth) apps for mobile devices. Through these services, the healthcare of the patients can be taken care of properly. Some of these services are mentioned below:
Personal Health Records Management
The obstacle: To manage personal health records (PHR) is quite difficult for patients.
The viable tactic: Using PHR application, patients can store their healthcare reports and access it from anywhere at any time via web-enabled devices such as computers, laptops, tablet or smartphones. In case of emergency, retrieving the patient’s record quickly can provide vital information, such as current diagnoses, medications, drug allergies, and doctor’s contact information.
Communication between Doctors and Specialists
The obstacle: Doctors sometimes need input from specialists, regarding patient’s disease and treatment. However, the existing healthcare system does not allow this as both doctors and specialists do not have the right tool to share information and time to travel.
The viable tactic: Through mHealth, the doctor can send the test reports, history reports, x-rays, or other things related to the patient to the specialist to review. The specialist might respond electronically, conduct a virtual appointment with patient at their doctor’s office, or request a face-to-face meeting. As a result, it reduces the wait time for specialist input and eliminates unnecessary travel.
Remote Monitoring Management
The obstacle: People who are diagnosed with chronic diseases need proper care and medical attention. They are kept under surveillance so that their family members can monitor their health.
The viable tactic: Through RPM, the task of monitoring these people becomes very convenient. The wearable devices play a vital role in transmitting information such as heart rate, blood glucose, gait, posture control, tremors, physical activity, or sleep patterns. In this way, the families of the patients can make right- move if there is a need for medical care.
Using Virtual Appointments
The obstacle: For every doctor visit, the patient has to book an appointment beforehand and then wait for their turn. The meeting with doctor take only 10-15 minutes but the entire visit may take 2-3 hours, which is a total waste of time for them.
The viable tactic: To overcome this flaw, the virtual appointment is the best option and can be utilized through tablets, computers, and smartphones. Through this, patients can communicate with doctors without leaving the comfort of their homes. In addition, they can receive on-going care from their regular doctor when an in-person visit is not required or possible. In this way, they can share their health status with the doctors.
The Benefits of Telehealth in Today’s Healthcare Industry
According to mobihealthnews, the number of households using video consultations with physicians will grow, from 900,000 in 2013 to 22.6 million in 2018. The report generated by Health IT Outcomes reveals that telemedicine usage is on the upswing; televisits have increased by 340% in the past five years. The new study called Global Digital Health Outlook of Health Data Management predicts that digital health will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% through 2023. These statistics indicate that usage of telehealth services is going to increase manifold in the future.
Witnessing such a scenario, the benefits provided by it will be very useful for patients, doctors, and healthcare providers.
For patients: Through telehealth, the doctor can reach their patients more frequently for their follow-ups. As a result, patients do not have to wait for doctor’s appointments and stand in the long queue. The main point here is that the patients get the best possible care with the least inconvenience.
For doctors: For specialists, this is a big chance to reach patients who aren’t local or who are unable to travel. By breaking the barrier of reach, they can treat their patients efficiently. Telehealth not only saves time but also reduces the gap to deliver the best health care to remote patients. Doctors can also increase capacity through less travel/weather condition schedule disruptions. Furthermore, patients can feel more confident in an opinion validated by another doctor.
For healthcare systems: Factors such as eliminating travel costs, cost reduction, minimize ambulance and medical taxi costs and eliminate unnecessary and duplicate tests, are helping in reducing the burden on the healthcare providers to deliver care fast and timely. Moreover, realizing the benefits of telehealth, governments, and other organizations started investing in it. It is clear that this technology will have a strong return on investment across the entire healthcare ecosystem. In the upcoming years, it is going to change the way healthcare is delivered and viewed.
Despite such a promising future, telehealth has to face numerous challenges. These challenges include misdiagnosis a person’s disease or treatment, widespread implementation of services, payment parity, and lastly, using telemedical technologies on an extended scale. Because of these factors, patients may not receive the right treatment, at the right time. One of the ways for telehealth to address this is by adopting latest trends and technologies.