E-Consults And Telemedicine
There is a revolution going on in the health care industry right now, and most people aren’t even really aware of it. With the progress of technology, things that used to be only dreams have become such a reality that we now take them for granted. Take, for example, the ability to share information instantly through an Internet connection, as well as conduct a live stream videoconference. Those same features that you might use to have FaceTime with your loved ones via your smartphone, or to share spreadsheets with coworkers half the world away, are also helping doctors and patients work together like never before.
What Is Telemedicine?
According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine has been around in one form or another for about forty years. In the beginning, it was used to help reach patients who live in remote areas, but since has been expanded in a number or exciting ways. Today, the overall goal of telemedicine is to improve a patient’s health status by leveraging the latest technologies. It is used in all health specialties.
An e-consult is when a patient has a virtual appointment with a doctor. The patient and doctor are not in the same room, but rather conduct the whole thing via teleconferencing and other wireless tools that provide instantaneous feedback. The US National Library of Medicine says that more than 250,000 e-consults are done each year. The service is particularly handy when a patient lives far away or transporting the patient to a specialist would cost a significant amount of money.
A study conducted by HIMSS Analytics in 2012 concluded, among many things, that 66 percent of health care organizations had a mobile technology plan instituted, which was a dramatic rise when compared to only 38 percent of organizations that had one in place during the previous year. Also, about half of the respondents in the study said they were planning to increase their use of mobile apps within the next year.
E-consults and telemedicine present some definite advantages for patients. Not only do they receive care in more convenient ways, they can also use telemedicine to enrich their lives. For example, KLAS found that workers who use devices that monitor the number of steps they take in a day increased their walking by 40 percent, further increasing their health. Chronic conditions can be monitored by health care workers remotely, helping people with diabetes or other conditions conduct a normal and safer life on a daily basis.
Yes, There’s An App For That
Some private companies are taking things a step or two forward, further leveraging the technology to benefit everyone in exciting new ways. For example, HealthTap allows people to ask tens of thousands of doctors for advice on conditions. If desired, members of the public can have a one-on-one e-consult with a physician to talk about the results of medical tests and share medically-related photos to receive advice, referrals or even a prescription to help with the situation immediately. The service even provides a smartphone app that supplies patients with a to-do list that reminds them to take medications and perform other regular activities to maintain their health. Physicians can even prescribe an exercise regimen using the app and monitor the patient’s activity levels.
The bottom line is the e-consults and telemedicine presents a win-win for patients and health care providers. People don’t have to make a trip to the doctor’s office in at least some instances, which saves them time since the technology cuts down visits to about a third as long as a person-to-person meeting. Providers are better able to manage the care of patients and free up office space, meaning those who must visit in-person enjoy less crowding in waiting rooms and an overall speedier visit.