Telemedicine: Its History, Uses and Benefits
Digital and electronic technologies have brought a major paradigm shift in the way the medical industry works. Among the many developments brought about by these technologies, telemedicine has perhaps made one of the most path-breaking impacts.
So what exactly is telemedicine?
By definition, telemedicine is the practice of using electronic media to transfer medical information from one point to another in order enable better patient care.
There are numerous ways in which telemedicine is implemented in the present world. For example, information is transmitted through two-way video, smart phones, email, fax and wireless tools. There are several other ways as well. In the recent times, live chat on the Internet has become a popular way of implementing telemedicine.
The beginning and growth
The seeds of telemedicine were sown almost four decades ago with an intention to spread quality healthcare to remote areas that do not have access to advanced treatments. Now, telemedicine has become an integral part of the ongoing operations in health centers, hospitals, physician’s office and other health care centers.
Telemedicine has taken medical care beyond the boundaries of healthcare facilities and right into the homes of people. People are able to communicate with doctors and obtain medical advice right from the comfort of their homes.
Telemedicine is not exclusive of conventional medical care practices
The methods of treatment or medical practices adopted in telemedicine are not different from conventional medical care. They are part of the investment made by healthcare facilities in information and communication technology. Telemedicine has created another way of delivering medical care. In other words, telemedicine is an additional facility offered by certain healthcare centers.
The costs incurred by availing telemedicine are also not much different from the expenses of traditional practices. The reimbursement fee structure is also the same. The only main difference is with regard to delivering medical care. While conventional medicine offers treatment on the site, telemedicine is provided remotely.
Telehealth and telemedicine are interchangeable terms. Both include consultations through video conferencing, online patient portals, transmitting pictures, monitoring vital signs remotely, using wireless applications for providing healthcare, nursing call centers and continuing medical education online.
However, there is one major difference between telemedicine and telehealth. Usually, telehealth refers to remote healthcare which might not always include clinical care. Telemedicine is deeply integrated with clinical care.
Telemedicine is also associated with HIT (Health Information Technology). The difference is that HIT refers to storage, transmission and usage of digital records pertaining to medical information. It does not involve actual delivery of clinical services. Telemedicine, on the other hand, focuses mainly on delivery of medical clinical care.
The scope of telemedicine
Telemedicine has enormous scope. The actual meaning of telemedicine can be understood by comprehending the services provided under this field of healthcare. Some of the services included in telemedicine are:
Different mechanisms used to deliver healthcare in telemedicine
Telemedicine and its benefits
The numerous benefits offered by telemedicine can be classified under four main categories:
Patient preference: Owing to the convenience, affordability and effectiveness of telemedicine, patients have begun to prefer this mode of healthcare. Besides just the patient, telemedicine has deeply improved convenience for their families and community at large. Since telemedicine can be accessed from home, patients escape the stress of traveling to healthcare facilities. Subsequently, costs incurred on travel are curbed. More importantly, telemedicine has provided peace of mind to millions of homebound patients. Owing to the numerous benefits, the demand for telemedicine has grown in recent years.
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