Since its introduction in the medical industry a few years back, telehealth has become a standard practice for many health providers. Don’t let the name fool you—telehealth covers a broader scope of technology and standards than simple telephone interactions between doctors and patients.
With many medical practices already reaping the rewards of investing in telehealth, this trend will only continue to grow in the future. If you’re a busy medical practitioner, you should consider implementing telehealth at your practice. Not only will telehealth save time and resources, but it will also make getting medical attention easier for patients.
What is Telehealth?
The term “telehealth” refers to the distribution of health-related services and information through means of various electronic information and communication technologies (ICTs). Many people confuse telehealth with telemedicine, which is a distinctly different practice. Telemedicine includes only remote clinical services like diagnosis and monitoring. Telehealth, on the other hand, deals with a broader scope of operations like preventative, promotive, and curative care.
Prime examples of telehealth use include virtual home-care for patients and virtual training for medical professionals and students. Telehealth services such as OTTO Health can also be used by physicians to review imaging and renew prescriptions.
How Does Telehealth Work?
Many medical technology companies design and sell telehealth platforms, so not all telehealth services are the same. In general, telehealth systems facilitate the following categories of care:
- Live (synchronous) telehealth consultations: In this telehealth process, both patients and healthcare providers interact in real-time through audio and video devices. Patients who live far from their doctors’ offices or who have hectic work hours tend to like this arrangement.
- Store-and-forward (asynchronous) telehealth consultations: Medical professionals use this service to exchange important patient information and data. Doctors upload diagnosis results, scans, and test information to a database which they can send to a patient’s other caregivers.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): This telehealth process is particularly useful for nurses who cannot monitor their patients on the spot. By setting up the right devices, important healthcare indicators such as heartbeat rate, glucose levels, and blood pressure can be measured remotely and recorded by the provider. Care providers typically use this method when treating terminally ill or sensitive patients.
- mHealth: mHealth refers to mobile telehealth services. This technology allows patients and doctors to communicate using mobile devices like phones and tablets. Store-and-forward data is dispatched to patients from providers in the forms of messages, recordings, emails, and instant messaging.
- Hybrid consultations: Hybrid consultation combines both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth methodologies to deliver the right healthcare solutions to patients. This process gives greater flexibility to both providers and patients when it comes to scheduling.
What Hardware Does Telehealth Require?
The hardware needed to implement quality telehealth depends on the range of services your office decides to offer. At the core, telehealth requires health providers to purchase a software system and basic hardware elements like microphones, integrated or external cameras, and a few additional computers, phones, or tablets.
On the patient’s end, they typically only need an internet connection and a laptop or mobile device.
What are the Benefits of Using Telehealth?
As previously mentioned, telehealth offers various benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. Pivotal advantages of telehealth include:
Interaction and scheduling flexibility creates more engagement between patients and healthcare providers.
- Physicians can reach a larger pool of patients and aren’t restricted by transportation needs.
- It gives patients access to the specialists they need, regardless of their location.
- Increased revenue and reduced overhead costs.
- Reduced costs for patients.
- Reduces the likelihood of patient no-shows.
- Better treatment for chronic and terminal illnesses.
How Will Telehealth Change Your Physician’s Office?
Telehealth not only improves patient care, but it also radically changes the dynamic of physician offices. Most noticeably, using telehealth cuts down on unnecessary processes. It also streamlines administrative work, allowing doctors to care for more patients in a given day. Furthermore, it cuts down on patient wait time, meaning your office won’t be filled with impatient patients. These changes will reduce stress in the office and allow doctors to focus on providing quality patient care rather than processing and paperwork.
Especially during the COVID-19 crises, telehealth is more important than ever. It allows doctors to address patient concerns without having to see them physically—telehealth benefits the doctors, patients with illnesses, and healthy patients needing routine care and exams. Telehealth is a viable medical care solution during this epidemic and will certainly become more mainstream in the coming years.