Technology has turned several of our dreams into reality. Telemedicine is one of them, which allows the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by using telecommunications technology. Telemedicine makes use of the Internet to connect patients and providers with each other and it is continuously growing day by day. Terms like e-health, m-Health, and telehealth are often interchanged for telemedicine, but the deliverable remains the same: the connection and interaction between patient and caregiver with the help of technology.
Telemedicine is an established service but the popularity of the tool still has not matured yet. It leaves the industry with a larger scope for newer advancements. But what will the future of telemedicine be like? That is quite uncertain but like any other disruptive healthcare innovation, it will take some time for validation, and the right catalyst before it is embraced fully across the medical community. Telemedicine has grown tremendously since February 2020. All thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is how it will further reshape its identity:
Telemedicine will Become a Standard Service
Patients in this modern landscape are becoming accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides and there is no turning back. Over the past decade, telemedicine has grown steadily and has emerged as a key and disruptive element, not only from a technological perspective but also sociocultural and economic, since it possesses solutions to present-day challenges. These challenges are the growing demand for health services and the ageing of the population along with the need to manage large amounts of information, etc.
Will Form Medical Services in Remote Locations to Connected Health
The emergence of new technologies is a leading factor in the growth of telemedicine that favours its expansion and applications of the concepts of globality and interoperability in health organizations. It eventually allows and promotes organized work environments that go beyond the mere application of telemedicine for healthcare services, especially in geographically remote locations.
This new trend will help telemedicine open the possibility, both to the provision of health services in remote locations, as well as bringing a multidisciplinary approach that can enhance the role of the primary care physician.
Remote Patient Care Will be a Reality
One of the most widespread uses of telemedicine is remote medical services via connections to specialists in other locations. In most countries, special types of medical practitioners (let’s say physicians) are clustered in one region, which obliges patients in isolated locations to travel long distances to receive the right care they need.
For primary care, telemedicine will help us with remote consultations with the referral hospital, which will eventually reduce waiting times in diagnosis and treatment and the number of referrals. Initially, telemedicine was used more and more in the care process but now, it is making its way to remote patient monitoring and follow-up, having the appearance of different applications for the same purpose. For instance:
It helps the patients by providing remote patient monitoring, diagnosis, or treatment at the right time. But it requires exchanging clinical information. Some of the services that can be availed under this category are
the transmission of x-rays or similar images (teleradiology),
laboratory or electronic health record, and
its application in specialities such as dermatology, psychiatry, or cardiology, among others.
It will enable the follow-up of patients (oftentimes chronic patients) incorporating biological, physiological, and biometric parameters. Telemonitoring can play a key role in empowering patients with regard to their health. Hence, telemonitoring makes it possible for the patients to take an active part in their care while staying in the hospital for the minimum time.
Tele-Surgery is undoubtedly one of the greatest revolutions in telemedicine and it is all set to advance with time. It makes use of cutting-edge technologies like robotics and virtual reality that have boosted the growing number of experimental telesurgeries, over the past few years.
Distance Education and Decision Support for Health Professionals
Telemedicine has been acting as an important tool for solving the socio-economic challenges facing health systems. The role of telemedicine is huge in optimizing health resources, improving the management of demand, reducing hospital stays and the number of trips, and improving the efficiency and sustainability of health systems.
Telemedicine supports communication and collaborative work between various health professionals, irrespective of their geographical location i.e., be it within the same city, country, or around the globe. This way, it not only benefits the health professionals but the patients too. Telemedicine has been acting as a powerful tool for patients to deal with their illnesses and for getting expert help in time. It also:
Brings equity in access to health services
Allows collaboration between teams of clinical professionals
Promotes the continuity of care
Improves the efficiency of health services.
Fields like virtual chronic disease management represent an untapped market for telemedicine. Patients with such problems need to visit the doctor very frequently. It can be decreased with the use of telemedicine along with the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
The same is the case with the “hospital at home” model in which we have patients who meet the criteria for hospitalization but are otherwise stable. They are treated at home for their problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and heart failure. Telemedicine will help with that too.