Telemedicine, the Future of Health Care

The term telemedicine is composed of the Greek word “tele” for “distance” and the Latin word “mederi” for “heal”. Distance is a barrier for people living in remote areas to access timely, quality healthcare. Telemedicine seeks to overcome this limitation by bridging this gap between the patient and the healthcare provider. The World Health Organization defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health professionals who use information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injury, research and assessment and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interest of promoting the health of individuals and their communities”. For example, a patient or a health care provider or caregiver can use a wireless phone to automatically upload vital signs and send them to a remote monitoring center. The Telemedicine was one of the first technologies to improve the distribution of health services, bringing access to health facilities to areas initially thought to be inaccessible.

Benefits of telemedicine

Telemedicine improves access to healthcare facilities for patients living in remote areas and allows physicians to reach patients and expand their services beyond their own clinic. Telemedicine reduces travel time for both the patient and the healthcare provider. It also reduces the number of hospitalizations and allows for shared staffing for healthcare professionals, resulting in lower healthcare costs. Along with reducing travel time, it also reduces the stress associated with travel. It improves continuity of patient care by allowing patient, GP, specialist and family members to be actively involved during a consultation.

Challenges of telemedicine

Physicians may be unaware of the benefits or usefulness of telemedicine and may object to the use of such e-medicine technologies. Another challenge is to build patient confidence in the results of these newer technologies. Language can be a barrier in some countries. For example, only 65.38% of the Indian population are literate and only 2% are proficient in English.

From the hospital’s perspective, implementing telemedicine requires high capital investments associated with technology and communications and can therefore become financially impractical. Supported by various types of software and hardware, telemedicine is immature and needs to evolve.

Conclusion

Telemedicine is the answer to the question of solving the problem of the unavailability of healthcare facilities. When properly implemented, it can serve multiple purposes along with the basic or specialized health services. Recent advances in information technology have improved the quality of telemedicine services and also greatly reduced the associated costs. However, in the context of telemedicine, concerns are raised about the security of patient data or a complete reliance on such services. Still, judicious use of this healthcare technology can save many more lives than before and significantly reduce healthcare costs.

Thanks to Shawn E Riley | #Telemedicine #Future #Health #Care

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