Telemedicine involves the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies for remote health care. Thanks to advances in technology, telemedicine services are more exciting and robust than ever. Digital technology makes it possible for physicians to easily communicate with and care for patients without an office visit. In the traditional telemedicine model, patients and providers communicate using special videoconferencing tools. However, technological breakthroughs are helping create new clinical opportunities and changing the way these virtual encounters are conducted, and these days no special videoconferencing tools are necessary and an online visit can be completed via your home computer, laptop or even a handheld device or smartphone.
- Mobile Health or mHealth: Smartphones are everywhere and their use is increasing. A 2015 research2guidance study found that 80 percent of medical practitioners use smartphones and medical apps. By storing medical records in the cloud, hospitals and insurance companies enable patients to view them and obtain their test results online at any time. Mobile device applications allow patients to monitor health parameters, schedule appointments, and set medication reminders. Along with wearable devices or attachable scanners, smartphones have become acceptable self-diagnosis tools. When attached to a scanner, a smartphone can scan blood samples for various medical conditions. People can use their smartphones to communicate with providers via video conference and text message and share information with them. With these extensive capabilities, smartphones and tablets are playing a key role in the telemedicine revolution.
- Wearable health technology: Wearable medical devices are a powerful tool for Remote Patient Monitoring. Wearable devices and sensors allow collection of important data such as heart rate, blood glucose levels, body temperature and more. Continuous glucose monitoring transmitters that connect to smartphone apps provide alerts on abnormal blood sugar levels. In addition to smartphones, biosensors are integrated into watches, shoes, belts, clothing, etc. Wearable devices collect the data automatically and send it to telehealth systems for analysis. This ensures accurate and up-to-date patient data without the need for manual data entry. Wearable devices have helped extend services beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar clinic.
- Advanced video conferencing software: Telemedicine was conducted via telephone before video became available. While patients could discuss their symptoms and ask questions, the physician and the patient could not see each other. Video solves this challenge, allowing them to communicate face-to-face or asynchronously. Today, HIPAA-compliant, encrypted, high-definition video and other technology is used to monitor intensive care unit patients in remote locations and provide high quality care. Features of advanced effective cloud telehealth communications platforms include:
- Video, audio, and content sharing
- Video-scopes and high-resolution cameras
- Remote camera control
- Support for desktop, mobile, and conference room systems
- Performs well in low-bandwidth environments
- Easy to operate and use
- Integration with electronic health record system and point-of-care components
- HIPAA compliance
- Virtual waiting room
- Asynchronous store-and-forward messages and imaging: Another development in the virtual online consultation, store-and-forward telemedicine also uses the same mediums such as photos, medical images, forms, etc., as real-time telemedicine. However, it does not require the physician and the patient to be present at the same time. For example, in the orthopedic telemedicine platform MoonlightOtho.com, patients may fill out a simple medical questionnaire, upload a video of the problem area, describing their medical condition, and get feedback from their provider/Orthopedic Surgeon within 36 hours.
The key benefits of store-and-forward telemedicine include:
- Participants can be located anywhere – no need to travel
- Patients can be seen on their schedule – asynchronous telemedicine visits don’t have to be conducted during a workday
- Easy virtual online consultation, without the need or hassle of face-to-face video
- Convenient access to care
- Saved waiting time and travel time
- Second opinions can be quickly obtained
- Patient satisfaction
The intelligent questionnaire of the telemedicine system will collate the necessary patient data, allowing the physician to view all the relevant information and quickly make treatment plan for the patient.
- Big data analytics: The application of big data analytics in telemedicine allows providers to identify potential health problems before they turn worse. Big data analytical techniques constantly monitor patients vitals and statistics, leading to a more accurate diagnosis and allowing physicians to provide treatments tailored to each individual’s needs.
Technological advances and simplified IT infrastructures are significantly impacting the telemedicine industry, improving physician-to-patient communication and setting the stage for virtual home care. Taking advantage of telemedicine’s capabilities can improve healthcare for millions of people, especially those in remote and rural areas.