Dr. Mark LaBeau - Telemedicine in San Diego, California
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to assess, diagnose and treat individuals at a distance using telecommunications technology. The approach has gone through a striking evolution in the last ten years and it is becoming an increasingly fundamental part of the American healthcare system.
What we recognize as telemedicine today started in the 1950's when a few hospital systems and university medical centers started to look for ways to share information and images via telephone. In one of the first successes, two health centers in Pennsylvania were able to transmit radiologic images over the phone.
In the early days, telemedicine was used primarily to connect physicians working with a patient in one location to specialists elsewhere. This was of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists aren't readily available. Throughout the next several decades, the devices required to carry out remote visits remained expensive and complex, so the use of the approach, while expanding, was limited.
The rise of the internet age brought with it profound changes for the practice of telemedicine. The proliferation of smart devices, efficient in high-quality video transmission, opened up the possibility of delivering remote healthcare to patients in their homes, workplaces or assisted living facilities as an alternative to in-person visits for both primary and specialty care.
Telemedicine vs Telehealth
Although the terms telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two.
The term telehealth includes a wide range of technologies and services to offer patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system overall. Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader range of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, along with clinical services. According to the World Health Organization, telehealth consists of, "Surveillance, health promotion and public health functions."
Telemedicine includes the use of electronic communications and software to offer clinical services to individuals without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is commonly used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation and a lot of other clinical services that can be provided remotely with secure video and audio connections.
Using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits has a host of advantages for patients and providers alike.
- Less time away from work
- No traveling costs or time
- Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
- No exposure to other potentially infectious patients
- Increased revenue
- Better office efficiency
- An answer to the competitive threat of retail health clinics and online only providers
- Improved patient follow through and better health results
- Fewer missed appointments and cancellations
- Private payer reimbursement
Telemedicine can be defined as using technology (computers, video, phone, messaging) by a medical professional to diagnose and treat patients in a remote location.
There are few limitations to how telemedicine can be used. Here are a few examples of how it is being utilized today.
Utilizing health software for routine follow-up visits is not only more effective for providers and individuals, but it also increases the likelihood of follow-up, reducing missed appointments and improving patient outcomes.
Remote chronic disease management
The growing rate of chronic disease is a significant problem for our health system. It is a prime candidate for using telemedicine software because it makes it easier and less expensive for individuals to maintain control over their health.
Remote post-hospitalization care
One telehealth program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by 73 percent and six-month readmissions by half.
Preventative care assistance
Weight loss and smoking cessation are the keys to reducing cardiovascular disease and a host of other conditions. Telemedicine can be a useful device in connecting providers with patients to ensure they receive the support they need to be successful.
School based telehealth
When children become ill at school, they might visit a school nurse or be picked up by their parents and taken to an urgent care facility. Some innovative districts have partnered with doctors to conduct remote visits from the school. The provider can assess the urgency of the situation and give instructions or reassurance to parents.
Assisted living center support
Telemedicine software has already shown to be helpful in keeping residents of assisted living facilities out of the hospital. Problems frequently occur at night or on weekends, making hospitalization the only alternative even for less urgent issues. With telemedicine, on-call doctors can perform a remote visit to determine if hospitalization is required.