There’s no doubt that the use of telemedicine to provide more accessible and improved healthcare is increasing. Entities that employ this digital trend that provide care to patients range from nursing facilities, hospitals in urban settings, as well as clinics in rural areas with limited resources. But, the general public may not yet be fully acquainted with what telemedicine is and how it’s used.
So, why use telemedicine? Well, it can provide “faster access to the health professional, increased convenience, and time savings for patients, improved equity of access to care between and within regions previously denied because of such factors as socioeconomic constraints, especially in countries in the developing world, and the tendency for specialized services to be centralized in urban centers, improved access between and within primary, secondary and tertiary care, [and] improved quality of care.” (Hjelm, 2015).
Let’s take a look inside the future of telemedicine…
This video does a great job of giving insight into telemedicine. However, this digital method of care does not have to be as high tech. For example, another way telemedicine is making its mark in healthcare is through text messaging. This article reviews the use of this means of communication in healthcare: Mobile phone messaging for facilitating self-management of long-term illnesses. Here’s a quick excerpt from it:
- Mobile phone messaging for facilitating self-management of long-term illnesses (this review);
- Mobile phone messaging for communicating results of medical investigations (Gurol-Urganci 2012);
- Mobile phone messaging for preventive health care (Vodopivec-Jamsek 2012);
- Mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments (Car 2012);
As we continue the journey of getting to know telemedicine better, let’s take a look at how it can lend a hand in remote areas that have limited access to healthcare resources. And, it should be noted that it has been working on breaking into healthcare for some time now. In fact, “Telemedicine has been considered a potential method of healthcare delivery for both Native American and Alaskan Inuit reservations through the Indian Health System (IHS) since the early 1970s.” (Kruse, 2016).
Because populations in remote areas tend to be insulated, quick access to healthcare can be limited. In addition, disease patterns and treatments can differ from more bigger cities. For example, dietary customs of Native Americans include consumption of foods with a high fat content. This can result in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, “Important modifications for a telehealth encounter might include a family-based visit, references to spirituality, community education sessions, and discussion of specific information regarding the health problems and needs of the reservation as a whole (e.g., substance abuse, diabetes, obesity, etc.).” (Kruse, 2016). Furthermore, everything from cost, quality, and access of healthcare faces unique considerations. Read more about it here: Telemedicine Use in Rural Native American Communities in the Era of the ACA: a Systematic Literature Review
So, let’s talk numbers now. How often does telemedicine facilitate patient visits and care? For this, we turn to our friends up north, Canada. According to the article Clinical telemedicine utilization in Ontario over the Ontario telemedicine network, OTN is an exemplar of how telemedicine can provide an extensive range of medical services over large geographic areas with services that are integrated and incentivized within existing physician payment models.” (O’Gorman, 2016). In this same article, data can be found that was collected on telemedicine network facilitated patient visits. The results were as follows:
This illustrates the growing trend that telemedicine has become. Read more about this here: Telemedicine in Ontario
Hopefully, after learning more about how telemedicine is being used,you have a better understanding of its benefits. Becoming more familiar with the many forms telemedicine can take will allow patients and healthcare practitioners to make the most of its use. It is through understanding and research that it will continue to grow and become more mainstream.
- de Jongh, T., Gurol-Urganci, I., Vodopivec-Jamsek, V., Car, J., Atun, R. (2007). Mobile phone messaging for facilitating self-management of long-term illnesses. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD007459. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007459.pub2
- Hjelm, N. M. (2005). Benefits and drawbacks of telemedicine. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 11(2) 60-70.
- Kruse, C. S., Bouffard, S., Dougherty, M., Stewart-Parro, J. (2016). Telemedicine use in rural Native American communities in the era of the ACA: a systematic literature review. Journal of Medical Systems, 40, 45. doi: 10.1007/s10916-016-0503-8
- O’Gorman, L. D., Hogenbirk, J. C., Warry, W. (2015). Clinical telemedicine utilization in Ontario over the Ontario telemedicine network. Telemedicine and E-Health, 22(6), 473-479. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2015.0166