Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Digital information and telecommunication technologies are transforming healthcare for both the patient and physician experience. Practices are starting to introduce more electronic-based healthcare services to eliminate some of the obstacles that occur with face-to-face visits and prevent patients from receiving the treatments they need. Telehealth, Telemedicine, and Telecare are 3 mechanisms of administering healthcare via technology that are being used to streamline clinical workflow and improve accessibility of healthcare services.
Telemedicine is a video platform that uses secure electronic communications to provide remote clinical services. It enables patients to connect with their physician within minutes from any location, at any time, using a mobile device. Virtual consultations offer patients a more convenient and flexible means to address their health care needs. In-person appointments could be time-consuming for patients as they involve the commute to and from the practice, the waiting periods throughout the visit, and the actual session with the physician. If practices offer Telemedicine, patients won’t have to disrupt their daily schedules. Patients who use Telemedicine do not have to take time off work and save on transportation costs. During a video conference, physicians can answer any questions the patient may have and assess their symptoms. The physician can make a diagnosis and prescribe medication if needed.
Telecare is technology that allows patients to maintain independence and safety in their community setting. Sensors, alarms, and other equipment can be obtained by patients to engage with from their own home. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices and medical alert systems are examples of technology that provide support and assistance to patients. For instance, wireless blood glucose monitoring systems can be used by patients with diabetes to track their glucose levels daily. These devices will display glucose measurements at regular intervals and alert the patient if their glucose levels are outside of a normal range. If the system indicates an unusual blood sugar level, the doctor is notified immediately and can connect with the patient to address this concern. Telecare technology aids in the management of health conditions and ensures that patients adhere to their care plans at home.
Telehealth delivers a broad range of healthcare services and activities outside of a traditional healthcare center, beyond the patient-physician relationship. Unlike Telemedicine, Telehealth incorporates both remote clinical and remote non-clinical services. Telecommunication technology supports long distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Telehealth has expanded patient access to healthcare services in medically underserved areas. Pharmacies, homeless shelters, supermarkets, and other public settings now host Telehealth kiosks equipped with high-definition cameras for videoconferencing and medical devices such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, and pulse oximeters. Kiosks are designed to address patient health concerns, as well as, provide wellness programs for health maintenance. Patients who live in rural areas can visit the closest facility in their community that has established these kiosks and connect with a physician. If patients are prescribed medication after their Telehealth visit, they can fill that prescription at a pharmacy of their choice. Self-service Telehealth kiosks are improving the reach of quality care to patients located in underserved areas.
Physician interest in remote telecommunications services and technology continues to increase as patients show a greater demand for this area of healthcare. Practices are implementing Telehealth services to enhance the efficiency of clinic flow. Physicians can conduct online consultations and engage with more patients in a day than what traditional in-person visits allow. Online visits are faster than the average face-to-face consultation, especially with patients seeking help for minor or acute health concerns and reduce the amount of missed appointments or late arrivals. Physicians are also able to expand availability after office hours and use the telecommunications platform to be reimbursed for these outside services. Telehealth, Telecare, and Telemedicine continues to rise in popularity as patients, physicians, and practices capitalize on these technologies to improve quality and delivery of care.