Telemedicine refers to the application of information technology and telecommunication tools to provide clinical health care from a distance. Healthcare professionals can now offer medical services remotely utilizing audio-visual and text-based messaging tools. Initially, telemedicine was used primarily in military and space applications, but its use has become more widespread in recent years.
Telemedicine works best when driven by broadband internet access which enables fast, reliable communication between applications for synchronous transfer of live multimedia between patients and care providers, seamless wireless communication between the patient and hospital, and remote control of robotic surgical and examination tools used in the delivery of healthcare services.
Types of Telemedicine
Telemedicine classified into three main categories:
- Store-and-forward: This involves acquiring medical data such as medical images and bio-signals, and transmitting the data to a physician for assessment. Due to the asynchronous nature of data transmission (data sent by the patient is stored where a physician can access it later) the presence of both parties at the same time may not be required.
- Remote monitoring: This enables medical professionals to monitor a patient using various wearable devices remotely. Remote monitoring may be primarily used to manage chronic diseases, an acute finding such as an arrhythmia or other specific conditions.
- Interactive services: Electronic consultations such as video conferencing provide real-time interactions between the patient and provider.
Some of the benefits of telemedicine include:
- Increased engagement and physician utilization rate
- Access to specialist care for rural hospitals
- Reduced outpatient visits, potentially reducing the overall cost of medical care significantly
The Best Telemedicine Software
Top companies that provide various platforms for telemedicine (in no specific order) include:
The Current Telemedicine Market in the USA
Around the world, interest in telemedicine is growing, particularly in the fields of teleradiology, telepathology, and teledermatology. The telemedicine market is divided into the hospital-based and telehome markets. The current demand for telemedicine services shows great potential for increase, as the market grew over 18% in just a single year and more growth is expected in the coming years.
In the USA, the business of treating patients through telemedicine is likely to increase due to a confluence of events in the healthcare industry, from doctor shortages to provider payment changes under the affordable care act.
The seeming paucity of healthcare professionals in rural and remote areas, along with the continuous development of communication, is providing opportunities for telemedicine to increase its services to millions of patients.
The widespread deployment of services is expected to continue at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future. The increase in telemedical applications will continue to rise due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases, consistent need for improved quality of service following increased adoption of value-based models, and rising elderly population across countries. These needs demand that tools such as telemedicine be leveraged to improve care delivery.