What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine can be defined as using technology (computers, video, phone, messaging) by a physician to diagnose and treat patients in a remote location.
Telemedicine enables health care professionals to assess, diagnose and treat individuals at a distance using telecommunications technology. The approach has gone through a striking evolution in the last ten years and it is becoming an increasingly vital part of the American healthcare system.
What we understand as telemedicine today began in the 1950's when a few hospital systems and university medical centers started to try to find ways to share information and images using the telephone. In one of the initial successes, two health centers in Pennsylvania were able to transmit radiologic images over the phone.
In the early days, telemedicine was used primarily to connect physicians working with a patient in one location to specialists elsewhere. This was of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists aren't readily available. Throughout the next several decades, the tools necessary to carry out remote visits remained expensive and complex, so the use of the approach, while expanding, was limited.
The rise of the internet age brought with it profound changes for the practice of telemedicine. The proliferation of smart devices, with the ability of high-quality video transmission, created the opportunity of providing remote healthcare to patients in their homes, workplaces or assisted living facilities as an alternative to in-person visits for both primary and specialty care.
Telemedicine vs Telehealth
Although the terms telemedicine and telehealth are commonly used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two.
The term telehealth consists of a broad range of technologies and services to offer patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system overall. Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader range of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, along with clinical services. According to the World Health Organization, telehealth includes, "Surveillance, health promotion and public health functions."
Telemedicine includes using electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is often used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation and a number of other clinical services that can be offered remotely through secure video and audio connections.
Using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits has a host of advantages for patients and providers alike.
- Less time away from work
- No travel expenses or time
- Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
- No exposure to other possibly contagious individuals
- Increased revenue
- Improved office efficiency
- An answer to the competitive threat of retail health clinics and on-line only providers
- Better patient follow through and improved health outcomes
- Fewer missed appointments and cancellations
- Private payer reimbursement
There are few limitations to how telemedicine can be used. Here are a few examples of how it is being used today.
Using health software for routine follow-up visits is not only more efficient for providers and patients, but it also increases the chance of follow-up, reducing missed appointments and improving patient outcomes.
Remote chronic disease management
The growing rate of chronic disease is a significant problem for our health system. It is a prime candidate for using telemedicine software because it makes it easier and less expensive for individuals to maintain control over their health.
Remote post-hospitalization care
One telehealth program for individuals with congestive heart failure reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by 73 percent and six-month readmissions by 50 percent.
Preventative care support
Weight loss and smoking cessation are the keys to reducing heart disease and a host of other problems. Telemedicine can be a helpful device in connecting providers with patients to make sure they receive the help they need to be successful.
School based telehealth
When children get sick at school, they could visit a school nurse or be picked up by their parents and taken to an urgent care facility. Some innovative districts have partnered with doctors to conduct remote visits from the school. The provider can assess the urgency of the situation and provide instructions or reassurance to parents.
Assisted living center support
Telemedicine software has already proven to be beneficial in keeping residents of assisted living facilities out of the hospital. Problems frequently take place at night or on weekends, making hospitalization the only option even for less urgent problems. With telemedicine, on-call physicians can perform a remote visit to determine if hospitalization is necessary.
For more information about Dr. Linette's practice and Telemedicine in El Cajon, California, contact us at 760-875-2627 or visit our website at LinetteWilliamson.com and schedule your appointment today!