Telemedicine is the practice of delivering medical care remotely. It allows healthcare providers to assess, diagnose, and care for patients using telecommunications technology and information technologies such as smartphones and HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing tools. Using a telemedicine platform, patients can consult a physician from anywhere without having to wait for an office appointment. Providers and patients can share information in real time using computers and mobile devices.
Video visits improve practice efficiency and quality of care. Virtual online consultation services save time as they “combine charting with patient analysis, reduce late and missed visits, focus on information exchange, and improve physician and patient availability” (www.medicaleconomics.com). Today, patients can choose from different types of telemedicine services.
Types of Telemedicine
- Real-time telemedicine: In real-time telemedicine, clinical services are delivered via live or synchronous interactions. A doctor-patient visit can be conducted anytime, anywhere – however, both the doctor and the patients must be “online” at the same time. So, much like a traditional in-office visit, patients may be at the mercy of the doctors schedule. Patients and providers or two providers interact with each other and share information using video conferencing software and via live medical image and video streaming. Real-time telemedicine works well for assessments of medical history, basic visual examinations, ophthalmic tests, neuropsychological consultation and assessment, and rehabilitation. This approach is considered an ideal option for primary care, urgent care, follow-up visits, and the management of medications and chronic illnesses. Real-time interactions between patient and clinician make the telemedicine clinical assessment similar to a face-to-face appointment.
- Store and Forward (asynchronous telemedicine): In the store-and-forward approach, patients can store and share critical information — such as diagnostic tests, images, patient videos and medical questionnaires, along with other pertinent records — with a physician, or specialist at another location. The specialist can then evaluate and analyze the data, and send feedback. This approach, which is utilized by telehealth practices such as MoonlightOrtho.com, an Orthopedic-specific telemedicine platform, streamlines the consultation process as it does not require coordinating patients and providers’ schedules, and the visit can be accomplished at each individuals convenience.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Remote health monitoring or remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the process of using technology to monitor patients in their home. RPM is especially helpful for the management of patients with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease. It helps healthcare providers keep a watchful eye on changes in patients’ vitals. RPM enhances quality of care, improves clinical efficiency, and reduces healthcare costs.
- Mobile Health (mHealth): Patients are increasingly using smartphone applications and wearable devices to monitor their own health. Mobile health refers to the use of smartphones, tablets, etc. along with health-based software apps for these devices to record and input important patient data. Wearable medical devices that feature sensors, actuators, and other mobile communications methods allow patient information to be continuously monitored and transmitted to healthcare providers via platforms providing telemedicine solutions. Such patient data collection can help identify risk factors for certain illnesses, and can also be used by policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to identify and act on health trends, inform treatment decisions, and educate the public.
Virtual online consultation – Connect with Specialists
A 2017 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicted that there will be a shortage of about 33,500 to 61,800 non-primary care specialists by 2030. Virtual diagnostic clinics bridge this gap by allowing patients to connect easily with specialists. Telemedicine services can:
- Significantly reduce the waiting period for expert diagnosis and treatment
- Improve care management and coordination
- Provide access to specialty care where it is limited, inconsistent or unavailable
- Allow patients to get specialist care in the comfort of their home, at any time
- Save time for both patients and providers involved
- Are useful for getting an online medical second opinion
- Tend to be much more focused and faster than in-person visits as the provider’s attention remains on the screen
- Increase satisfaction for providers and patients
With a reliable telemedicine platform, patients can rest assured that their records are stored safely on HIPAA compliant cloud-based servers.
An increasingly popular option for chronic disease management, medication management, emergency room (ER) diversion, paramedic/ambulatory, and disaster relief, telemedicine is also proving a great option for orthopedic consultations. Orthopedic telemedicine services such as MoonlightOrtho.com are available that allow patients to connect with an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician via asynchronous video technology. With MoonlightOrtho patients can search for a provider by name, or by their state or residence and the location of their pain/symptoms.
Convenient for patients and physicians alike, telemedicine is here to stay. To offer virtual consultations, providers need to choose a secure, HIPAA compliant video transmission service that will meet patient needs while providing crucial operational and clinical benefits.