Telemedicine has become an integral part of the healthcare practice of hospitals today. The demand for telemedicine services has increased massively after COVID-19 happened. While before the pandemic, only 11 percent of consumers were used to telehealth services, by 2020 this number has hit the 46% mark.
The rise in demand for telehealth services has led hospitals and clinics to adopt advanced telemedicine solutions and make them a part of their healthcare strategy. Incorporating a telemedicine application or software enables hospitals and clinics to leverage online counseling, video conferencing, and remote monitoring features for quick diagnosis and treatment.
The use of telemedicine has not only widened the space of healthcare services but has also proven to be a cost-efficient method. In this article, we look at major applications/benefits of telemedicine solutions and see how they help in improving the healthcare delivery service.
1. Providing Mental Health Consultations
Online therapy also known as telemental health is an emerging field where counselors provide psychological counseling to patients through email, video conferencing, online chat, or by voice call. It is useful for patients in rehab and helps those who cannot leave their homes or are located in rural/remote areas. Telemental health services help patients with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. After COVID happened, the USA registered an increase in the number of elemental counseling patients. To deal with the rising mental health counseling demand amid COVID-19, New York Governor announced a free hotline comprising 6000 therapists.
2. Diagnosing and Treating Strokes Faster
Strokes can be life-threatening if a patient is not given effective treatment on time. The treatment capability depends on the ability of a doctor i.e. if he/she can identify the key symptoms of a stroke. After symptom identification, the patient is administered tissue plasminogen activator medicine also known as tPA. Unfortunately, small and rural hospitals don’t have expert neurologists who can suggest medicine dosage or other injectables. This challenge can be addressed by incorporating video conferencing features in a telemedicine application. A telemedicine application/software with scanner and video conferencing features will allow doctors to collaborate with expert neurologists for a quick diagnosis and treatment.
3. Monitoring Patients in the ICU
Telemedicine solutions have made their way into the intensive care unit. In the ICU, telehealth solutions provide external support to physicians and nurses who have to treat and monitor many patients at once. Tele-ICU staff has access to patient data and health vitals such as lab results, doctor’s notes, and most importantly bedside camera installations allowing them to collaborate and confer with physicians. Since the remote physicians do not face the distraction as on-site physicians and nurses face, they are more efficient in patient monitoring.
4. Enabling Patients to Rehab at Home
After a patient is discharged from the hospital, the further recovery process begins at home. Those who are recovering from a stroke, or neurological diseases like Sclerosis, Dementia, or Parkinson’s need excessive care and have to be monitored regularly. Many hospitals provide rehab services which include a cognitive or psychiatric assessment based on patients’ exercise regimens. Additionally, telemedicine can assist heart, lung, and other disease patients with online education sessions for better rehabilitation at home.
5. Reducing the Risk of Diseases
Disease like diabetes requires patient self-management along with timely checkups and consultations. Telemedicine applications enable diabetes patients to take medication as per schedule, count calories, and interact with physicians in case of complications. Remote patient consultation also works wonders in countering chronic diseases like hypertension. Many hospitals have incorporated telemedicine software for doctors allowing patients to connect with doctors for medication, prescriptions, and virtual appointments on-demand thus reducing the number of ER visits.
6. Improving Oral Healthcare With Teledentistry
Teledentistry enhances access to oral healthcare and certainly lowers down the costs. It makes use of medical images to provide consultation, speed up diagnosis, improve treatment planning and boost coordination. Based on a patient’s oral health, the images and reports can be accessed and shared with other physicians for review. With teledentistry, the government has the potential to eliminate the disparity in oral healthcare between rural and urban areas. Additionally, teledentistry solutions can be used to provide teaching through live demonstrations to dental students.
7. Linking Patients, General Practitioners to Dermatologists
Another use of telemedicine technology is in dermatology. This is a proven method of telemedicine that has been there for years and has improved with the development of telehealth solutions. With the dermatological solutions, hospitals and clinics have been able to connect with patients remotely and provide consultations based on the images/reports of a patient. Teledermatology today is used to treat serious life-threatening conditions including melanoma, psoriasis, and other skin problems. The use of teledermatology has also proven useful in COVID-19 aftermath and has enabled patients to engage with doctors on-demand for medicine prescription and diagnosis.
8. Improving Rural Healthcare Across the World
Telemedicine technology has enabled states in the US to improve their rural access rates greatly. However, its biggest impact can be seen in Africa and other developing countries where healthcare services are both scarce and inaccessible. With telemedicine applications, governments could provide a platform that connects rural patients with city doctors allowing faster treatment for cataracts and other diseases. Also, telemedicine can bring access to educational resources to the new mothers so that they are aware of their and their children’s medical needs. Since people in rural areas have access to mobile phones, hospitals can expand their rural healthcare reach by developing telemedicine solutions.
Telemedicine solutions have become an important part of the healthcare strategy of hospitals today and can play a major role in expanding healthcare access across the world. Equipping more hospitals with a telemedicine platform enables doctors to engage with patients easily. Moreover, telemedicine apps allow doctors in rural and remote areas to collaborate with other experts for better diagnosis thus eliminating the possibility of future complications. Telemedicine applications are undoubtedly the go-to medium for governments and hospitals to provide a quick, cost-effective, and convenient access to healthcare. However, before implementing a telemedicine platform for doctors, hospitals must have a look at the federal government’s regulatory norms and participation guidelines.