What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat individuals at a distance using telecommunications technology. The approach has gone through an impressive evolution in the last decade and it is becoming an increasingly important part of the American healthcare system.
Telemedicine can be defined as the use of technology (computers, video, phone, messaging) by a medical professional to diagnose and treat patients in a remote location.
What we understand as telemedicine today started in the 1950's when a few hospital systems and university medical centers started to look for ways to share information and images using the telephone. In one of the initial successes, two health centers in Pennsylvania were able to send radiologic images over the phone.
In the early days, telemedicine was used primarily to connect doctors 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 devices required to perform 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, capable of high-quality video transmission, created the opportunity of providing remote healthcare to individuals 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 frequently 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 enhance the healthcare delivery system as a whole. Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope 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 the use of electronic communications and software to offer 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 host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely through secure video and audio connections.
Using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits has a host of benefits 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 potentially infectious patients
- Increased revenue
- Improved office efficiency
- A response to the competitive threat of retail health clinics and online only providers
- Improved patient follow through and better health outcomes
- Less missed appointments and cancellations
- Private payer reimbursement
There are few limitations to how telemedicine can be applied. Here are a few examples of how it is being used today.
Utilizing health software for regular follow-up visits is not only more effective for providers and patients, but it also increases the likelihood of follow-up, reducing missed appointments and improving patient outcomes.
Remote chronic illness management
The increasing rate of chronic disease is a significant challenge for our health system. It is a prime candidate for the use of telemedicine software because it makes it easier and less expensive for patients to maintain control over their health.
Remote post-hospitalization care
One telehealth program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by 73 percent and six-month readmissions by 50 percent.
Preventative care assistance
Weight loss and smoking cessation are the keys to lowering heart disease and a number of other conditions. Telemedicine can be a useful device in connecting providers with patients to make sure they receive the support they need to be successful.
School based telehealth
When children get ill at school, they may see a school nurse or be picked up by their parents and taken to an urgent care facility. Some innovative districts have teamed up with physicians to conduct remote visits from the school. The provider can evaluate the urgency of the case and give 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. Issues often take place at night or on weekends, making hospitalization the only alternative even for less urgent issues. 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 Rancho Santa Fe, California, contact us at 760-875-2627 or visit our website at LinetteWilliamson.com and schedule your appointment today!