TeleMedicine is a way to reduce costs at the same time providing consumers with the convenience they want like reduced travel time, fewer hardships. It solves the current problems like shortage of qualified medical professionals. The communication technology has advanced to an extent where doctors can provide good virtual consultations.
Increasing popularity of TeleMedicine Technology is transforming every sector including Healthcare. Modern information and communication technologies (ICTs), like computers, the Internet, and cell phones, are transforming how individuals communicate with each other, seek and exchange information, and enriching people's life. This has great potential to solve global health care problems.
A few factors which have made widespread adoption of TeleMedicine possible are
The availability of High-speed internet access and mobile phone
People already have computers and smartphone using which they access the internet and are using telecommunication technology in different contexts.
It provides cost-effective and efficient care to elder patients who require extra care than younger generation
Types of TeleMedicine
The practice of TeleMedicine is divided into three types of solutions
Store and forward - This is also called asynchronous TeleMedicine. It is a method in which the patient's medical information like imaging reports, diagnostic reports, videos and other records are stored and forwarded to a medical care professionals for remote assessment of patient's condition. In this method, medical care professionals can analyze the patient's information effectively at their convenient time. In this solution, a medical specialist can be in a different timezone. This solution is applied in dermatology, ophthalmology, and radiology.
Remote monitoring (Telemonitoring) clinical measurements of patients can be monitored from a distance. This is beneficial for older patients at home who have illness persisting for a long time like heart disease, diabetes, and even asthma.
Live Interactive or Real Time TeleMedicine - Synchronous TeleMedicine Video conferencing facility gives doctors to offer immediate advice to patients who require medical care. It is useful in primary care and followup visits. These technologies used in TeleMedicine are designed to protect patients privacy and follows HIPAA( Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards
TeleMedicine Technology Overview The Principle element of TeleMedicine are
1. Equipment - Telemedicine systems capture voice and image data
2. Transmission method or Connectivity
1. Equipment - TeleMedicine Units
Room Systems with viewing screen and microphone are stationed in a room. They are used for continuing education, medical therapy, and administrative meetings.
Mobile Systems have small footprints and are easily moved. Telemedicine units which can be moved to different places
Desktop Systems - Small units which can be placed in clinician's office
Equipment -Principal Common Components
1. Camera is used for clinicians to see the patients and patients to see the clinicians.
2. Viewing Screen - Sometimes multiple screens are available so that medical provider can view the patients as well as the diagnostic reports and other medical information.
3. Microphone allows clinicians and patients to talk to one another.
4. Codec - decoding and coding. It is the heart of the system. This compresses the outgoing audio and video data and transmit the information to the far end decompress the incoming information. It also provides security encryption.
5. Scopes and Peripherals
Use of peripheral equipment like specialized cameras and diagnostic scopes.
A specialist can examine without having to be in the same location. General use of cameras allows dermatologist to view the skins. ENT specialist uses Otoscope to view inside of the patient's ears. Stethoscope allows listening to heart and lung Sounds. Non-mydriatic cameras allows capturing the retinal images in case of Diabetic Retinopathy screenings
2. Transmission method or Connectivity The network is necessary to establish connectivity between locations and transmit clinical data. Telemedicine equipment needs to be linked together for interaction.
Top TeleMedicine Specialities
TeleMedicine can be applied to any specialty. It can be said as a virtual hospital.
1. Teleradiology - get a consultation on patient's health condition by sending x-rays and health records securely to a radiologist at another location
2. Teleophthalmology - examines a patient's eyes and provide treatment from a distance.
3. Teledermatology- images of rash or skin disorder are sent for remote diagnosis. 80% of dermatology cases involving rashes are resolved by TeleMedicine
Benefits of TeleMedicine.
1. Elderly people with chronic illness can be treated by doctors miles away without leaving their Eldercare facility.
2. A worker who becomes ill or injured on oil well who is 100s of miles away from land can be treated by doctors remotely via TeleMedicine.
3. Video conferencing facility helps medical practitioner interact with the patient almost immediately with a reduction in cost and increase convenience.
4. Patients can be seen sooner by doctors for treatment
5. The cost of patients traveling to hospital and waiting time are drastically reduced
6. Expert Medical advice, one viirtual doctor visit on one consultation, 2nd opinion, online medical record
7. It protects one's Privacy and from the comfort of your home
8. Patient Health records are stored securely following the HIPAA standards
9. Patients can be diagnosed and treated earlier which leads to improved outcomes and cheap treatments.
TeleMedicine offers extraordinary potential for delivering faster, better, less expensive and more convenient care As the TeleMedicine sector expands and evolves, it provides enormous opportunities for the health care profession, particularly in its ability to reach, engage, and improve the health of patients who might otherwise not have access to care.
The term telemedicine is derived from the combination of a Greek word "Tele," meaning "distance" and a Latin word "mederi" meaning "to heal". Distance is a constraint for people living in remote areas to access timely, good-quality health care. Telemedicine attempts to overcome this constraint by bridging this gap between the patient and healthcare provider. The World Health Organization defines Telemedicine as, "The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities". A health or a patient care provider, or caregiver may use a wireless phone to automatically upload vital signs and send it to a remote monitoring. Telemedicine was one of the initial technologies which improved the spread of healthcare services wherein areas that were considered inaccessible initially were also able to access healthcare facilities.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine improves accessibility to health care facilities for the patient living in remote areas and allows physicians to reach out to patients and expand their services beyond their own clinic. Telemedicine reduces travelling time for both patient and the health care provider. It also decreases the number of hospital stays, allows for shared health professional staffing that translates into reduced health care cost. Along with the reduction in travel time it also reduces the stress related to traveling. It improves continuity of patient care as the patient, primary care specialist, physician and family members may be actively involved during a consultation.
Challenges of Telemedicine
Physicians may not be aware of the benefits or utility of telemedicine and may be resistant to use such e-medicine technologies. Building trust in patients about the outcome of these newer technologies is another challenge. Language may be a barrier in some countries. For example only 65.38% of India's population is literate with only 2% being well-versed in English.
From the hospital perspective, implementation of telemedicine involves investment of high capital associated with the technology and communication and so this may become financially unfeasible. Telemedicine is supported by various types of software and hardware is still immature and needs to evolve.
Telemedicine is the answer to the question of solving the problem of inaccessibility to the healthcare facilities. With proper implementation it can serve multiple purposes along with the basic or specialized healthcare services. Recent advances in the field of information technology has improved the quality of the telemedicine services and also reduced the related costs to a great extent. However, concerns about safety of patient data, or becoming completely dependent on such services are being raised in relation to telemedicine. Nevertheless, judicious use of this health technology can save a lot more lives than before and reduce the healthcare costs to a great extent.
Live Interactive or Real Time TeleMedicine - Synchronous TeleMedicine Video conferencing facility gives doctors to offer immediate advice to patients who require medical care. Live Interactive or Real Time TeleMedicine - Synchronous TeleMedicine Video conferencing facility gives doctors to offer immediate advice to patients who require medical care. These technologies used in TeleMedicine are designed to protect patients privacy and follows HIPAA( Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards
Telemedicine improves accessibility to health care facilities for the patient living in remote areas and allows physicians to reach out to patients and expand their services beyond their own clinic. Telemedicine reduces travelling time for both patient and the health care provider.