As communication technology continued to advance, it was inevitable that it would seep into almost every industry there is. With that being said, it was only a matter of time before we would start to see it work its way into the medical space.
The most current amalgamation of communication technology and healthcare is referred to as ‘Telemedicine’ and it is evolving in perpetuity; Telemedicine is something that we see and hear more and more of, but not everyone within the industry knows exactly what it is, and the applications that it has.
The definition of Telemedicine is: ‘The remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.’
Though Telemedicine has been developing for many years now, it is starting to experience mainstream growth and recognition due to rapid developments in technology and communications, alongside the decreased cost and increased accessibility for the masses.
So now we know what it is, what are the most common types?
The three most common types of Telemedicine are:
- Synchronous Telemedicine
This is what is most commonly thought of when it comes to Telemedicine; Synchronous Telemedicine is sometimes referred to as ‘Real-Time Telemedicine’ and consists of live interaction between the medical professional and the patient via audio and video channels. Though there are multiple sophisticated Telemedicine software options available, a simple way to think of it is like ‘Skype-ing’ your patients, you can see and talk to them and them to you. This form of Telemedicine allows for remote consultations, follow-ups and sometimes diagnosis.
- Asynchronous Telemedicine
Also sometimes known as ‘Store-and-Forward Telemedicine’, Asynchronous Telemedicine provides medical professionals with the ability to securely store and share the medical data of a patient such as lab results, images, videos or records with other medical professionals who may need said information. This allows for a very streamlined and efficient approach to the sharing of information without needing to communicate in real time. Asynchronous Telemedicine is applied regularly with access to lab results, x-rays and virtual clinics, allowing for specialist assessment and diagnosis remotely.
- Remote Patient Monitoring
The concept of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is fairly self explanatory, it allows a medical professional to monitor a patient from a remote location. Health data such as vital signs post surgery can be monitored elsewhere, with any risks or warning signs being flagged, allowing for intervention when needed, without needing someone to walk around checking. RPM can also be used for the monitoring and management of chronic care, with a medical professional receiving information such as blood pressure or glucose levels, taken by a patient at home, storing them if all is well, or contacting the patient if results are off.
So what are the pros and cons of Telemedicine?
- Efficiency- less time spent on waiting for and changing patients, meaning more can be fit in
- Streamlining- Clinic rooms, waiting rooms, receptionists
- Profitability- result of efficiency and streamlining
- Flexibility- can be done from anywhere with a good internet connection
- Access to patients from afar- can widen catchment area for patients
- Needs equipment and training- the patient and consultant must both have the equipment and the know how (and be willing to use it)
- Can dilute relationships with patients- the technology may lessen interactions, and take away a lot of the inter-personal elements, of which are important when it comes to patient retention
- Doesn’t work for all cases, and may require a follow up consultation in person, which overall takes more time than if the person had just came for an in-person consultation in the first place
Now you are up to date on what Telemedicine is, and what it can do. Is it something that you would consider implementing in your practice?