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Most people often wonder what is telehealth and how it differs from telemedicine.
Well, it is a method or means used to enhance public health, healthcare, as well as health education via the use of telecommunication technologies.
Telehealth services involve a myriad of technologies used to provide virtual medical, educational services and health.
Furthermore, Telehealth should not be considered an explicit service.
It is a number of services that help enhance medicine and education delivery.
What is telehealth and what are the services provided:
- Physical therapy
- Home health
- Chronic disease management
- Disaster management
- Consumer as well as professional education
As such, these telehealth services are what mark the difference to telemedicine.
What is Telemedicine/Telehealth?
Telemedicine involves the use of traditional clinical diagnosis along with monitoring using technology.
Conversely, Telehealth has to do with a variety of diagnosis, education, as well as various fields involved in health care.
Essentially, telemedicine involves remote diagnosis and treatment of patients via the use of telecommunication technology.
In the last decade, telemedicine shows a striking revolution and is increasingly imperative to the healthcare infrastructure in America.
As technology advances, there is wider accessibility to the tools required for telemedicine.
For instance, we not only have access to live video telemedicine but also have video chat applications today such as Facetime and Skype.
Furthermore, most people have access to mobile devices and computers to access this technology.
Despite being overshadowed by telehealth, telemedicine is nowadays used as a convenient tool for medical care.
As such, patients no longer want to waste time in the waiting room to see a doctor for minor conditions that may require urgent attention.
The solution for this is telemedicine.
Many telemedicine companies today cater for this need, as there are too many overburdened medical primary care givers.
Therefore, to fill the gap, these companies come with a 24/7 on call doctor services.
This helps patients who do not want to spend long hours in the waiting room to see a doctor.
From its inception, telemedicine has drastically changed.
Telemedicine experiments began some 50 years ago in an effort to reach patients located in remote areas.
There were many medical success stories due to telemedicine.
Today, telemedicine has transformed greatly due to technological advances.
It is now a complex and integrated service that is used in hospitals, healthcare facilities, homes, and private physician offices.
As expected, the concept of telemedicine began when telecommunication technology began.
The aim was to send medical information using electromagnetic signals.
The information was relayed using telephones, telegraph, and radio.
However, it was not until the 1950s that medical centers based in universities and hospital systems began to experiment on telemedicine.
In Pennsylvania, two health centers that were 24 miles apart did transmit radiological images using a telephone.
The Teleradiology system was invented by a Canadian doctor and used in Montreal.
Using an interactive two-way television, University of Nebraska Doctors managed to relay neurological examinations to students of medicine.
In 1964, a telemedicine link allowed the university to give health services to a Norfolk State Hospital.
This was located 112 miles from the campus.
Later on, what was originally intended to provide medical care to people located in remote areas was used to provide healthcare to urban populations that suffered from a shortage of healthcare services.
Types of Telemedicine/Telehealth Services
There are a variety of services offered via telemedicine that makes this revolutionary concept save lives through the provision of healthcare where required.
Among the first uses of telemedicine, Teleradiology provides solutions that help in the diagnosis of x-rays.
When a small hospital does not have a radiologist, this service provides a quick diagnosis remotely.
Behavioral health services are given remotely using this service.
Psychiatry does not require physical examination; therefore, it is a very popular form of telemedicine.
Using this service, a health care professional can send a photo of a skin anomaly to a specialist for remote diagnosis.
This is a store-and forward-solution.
Using the technology, a healthcare professional get to know whether the patient needs to see a dermatologist.
If a patient suffers from an eye infection, a medical professional can get expert advice on the problem.
The solution may either be performed live or done using store-and-forward telemedicine.
For a patient with kidney problems, telemedicine solutions can be done effectively to diagnose the need for specialist services.
An obstetrician can offer prenatal care remotely using Teleobstetrics solutions.
For patients who have cancer, there is no need for worry about access to oncology services as the field has expanded widely lately.
Medical professionals are able to get the diagnosis for a patient by forwarding images of getting tools via the store-and-forward method.
Today, the patient can also consult a doctor through video.
Other telemedicine solutions include Telepathology and Telerehabilitation.
All these solutions offered by telemedicine are helpful in the provision of services that would otherwise be unavailable for various locations.
In addition, they save time in case of emergencies when patients are too far to gain access to a specialist.
Therefore, there is access to store-and-forward solutions due to telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and real time medicine.
Benefits of Telemedicine/Telehealth
Telemedicine provides major benefits to the patient as well as the medical professional providing the service.
Patients will gain the following benefits:
- They do not have to be away from work for long hours.
- Expenses are minimal for there is no need to travel.
- There is no interference for a child or elderly care responsibilities.
- The patient benefits from privacy.
- As a patient, there is no risk from contagious patients in healthcare facilities.
Medical professional also benefit in the following ways:
- There is an increase in revenue.
- Efficiency is improved in a medical office.
- Provides solutions for competition from retail health clinics as well as online providers of medical care.
- Follow-up on patients is easy and this leads to improved health.
- There is fewer cancellation of appointments.
- The reimbursement is kept private.
Telemedicine/Telehealth Pros and Cons
Overall, telemedicine has major benefits.
Access to medical care is a necessity; as such, the network built through telemedicine is essential.
Healthcare spending is reduced as it engages patients who are connected today due to technology.
However, there are some downsides to telemedicine. They are discussed below.
Pros of Telemedicine:
- Accessible and convenient medical care for patients.
- Patient saves on health care costs.
- Access and consultation from a specialist are made easy.
- Patient engagement ensures improved health.
- The quality of patient care is improved.
Cons of Telemedicine:
- It requires technical training to handle the equipment used to manage telemedicine.
- There are telemedicine models that may reduce the continuity of medical care. This is due to online sites that allow a patient to request for a specialist as opposed to seeing a medical professional for consultation.
- Reduces patient to doctor interaction as a patient may get a diagnosis using symptoms without a physical examination.
- Changing reimbursement and policy landscape for telemedicine is a tad tricky.
In conclusion, telemedicine has improved the field of medicine since its inception by ensuring medical care is accessible to everyone regardless of location.
It saves you time and money; at the same time, it ensures that there is improved health in any community.
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