Telemedicine: Making Healthcare More Accessible
It’s clear that many people struggling with health issues are looking for convenient healthcare services. But they find it even more valuable when the convenience of healthcare is paired with the experience and expertise of a professional. Using telemedicine (video calls, secure chats, or other solutions) to get in touch with healthcare providers could improve healthcare outcomes.
You’re more likely to have a better experience if you see an expert who has a basic understanding of your health history and uses their deep knowledge to diagnose and treat you accordingly. Telemedicine should provide you with lower healthcare costs and make accessing care more convenient because it enables you to engage with professionals you would be unable to reach another way. It has the role of building stronger relationships between patients and their doctors.
Healthcare providers also benefit from telemedicine because it positively impacts their revenue, as they face fewer cancellations and they can see more patients. The technology also provides doctors with a new level of flexibility because they can deliver the necessary care to the people in need, even when the patients cannot make in-person visits. Healthcare specialists state that online appointments are excellent alternatives for the negative alternative of no appointments at all.
Is there any difference between telemedicine and telehealth?
Many people use the terms telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably, mostly because they sound similar or because they seem to refer to the same services at first glance. The truth is that they’re two separate services as they refer to two different ways to provide healthcare services.
Telehealth is an all-encompassing term usually used to define the use of online communication methods to offer medical education, telemedicine, and health education remotely. Therefore, it includes remote doctor consultations, health education services, ECG and blood pressure tests with the help of wearable technology, and remote monitoring of vital signs.
Telemedicine is a subcategory of telehealth (as we previously saw) that defines the use of telecommunication tools to provide medical services and exchange health data over long distances to remote areas. It requires electronic and conferencing devices like smartphones, tablets, or computers to eliminate the need for an in-person consultation.
How does telemedicine increase access to healthcare services?
The pandemic forced several people to stay at home and practice social distancing, so they had to cancel their routine procedures and check-ups to prevent catching the virus. The healthcare providers have been inundated with COVID-19 patients for countless months, and even if the pandemic is slowing its pace now, many patients are still wary of exposing themselves to an environment where they may get infected. But not receiving or postponing treatment can have severe repercussions on their health. Luckily, telemedicine has become an essential way for physicians to continue to consult patients remotely. For example, telemedicine for nursing homes enables healthcare specialists to reach patients from nursing facilities who might otherwise be unable to get specialized care.
Telemedicine provides critical care
Telemedicine is beneficial for high-risk patients who need intensive care. Using telemedicine technology, healthcare centers can centralize real-time patient monitoring with the help of remote observation. When someone needs urgent care, a specialist from their nursing facility or healthcare center can reach a specialist with the help of telemedicine, allowing for a better allocation of resources.
Telemedicine facilitates in-home counseling
Behavioral and mental health have gained popularity over the last years, as more patients find them essential components of their well-being, but sadly they’re not always easily accessible. Online counseling with the help of telemedicine can help people overcome the challenges to mental healthcare by enabling them to see a professional via a secure network from the comfort and privacy of their homes. Mental health patients do not always feel comfortable opening up about their struggles in a new environment, so in-home counseling could help them. They can also use their preferred device to get in touch with mental health specialists, making the video call adapt to the most comfortable setting. The level of flexibility telemedicine offers can provide patients with countless benefits like a productive counseling session, a comfortable environment, and a safe location.
Telemedicine offers access to added expertise
While general physicians are highly trained and skilled, there are instances when they need a specialist’s assistance to diagnose and treat patients. Telemedicine makes it possible for them to contact specialists who can offer education or consultations in real-time with the help of online technology. So, a doctor from New York could discuss a case with a specialist from London and another from Beijing through a real-time multi-party video call. Telemedicine also makes it possible for doctors to reach specialists when they need a quick consultation to improve the speed and quality of their care and reduce the costs of hospital admission by diagnosing the patients the first time.
Telemedicine can keep the doctor away
Even if the medicine has greatly advanced over the last years, chronic diseases are still increasingly prevalent, costing both patients and healthcare providers a lot. Research shows that 60% of American adults have at least one chronic disease. Telemedicine can help these patients change their lifestyles to improve their health and alleviate their illnesses. For example, they can use online tools and solutions to access personalized nutritional counseling or enroll in healthy cooking classes. There are many options to choose from, so they can easily find one that matches their schedule and preference. With the right video app in place, they can follow up on online classes. Because they can interact in real-time with lifestyle specialists, they can ask questions to find out how they can boost their treatment’s efficacy.
In the end, providing people with the ability to see a specialist with the help of telemedicine makes their healthcare experience more customized and efficient. Telehealth keeps people engaged in their health, making their journey more accessible and improving their health literacy.