Telehealth - Reaching the Underserved

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Thursday, 27 September 2012 01:22

Telehealth and Telemedicine are newer words to patients. They are also a newer processes for many providers to learn. So what is Telehealth and how does it relate to Telemedicine? The two are really synonymous and used interchangeably, so a simplified definition is “healing at a distance”. For more detailed information on what Telehealth is, see our article this month, “What is Telehealth?”

Some may feel that Telemedicine is impersonal and that patients will not respond well to it. My theory is this will become a great approach for patients who under normal circumstances, would not receive the proper care they needed or would have a greater expense for in-home care without these technological developments.

Providers are reaching patients through Telemedicine in many ways and through these information technology pathways patients are able to receive the proper care with less stress and real-time responses. There are many different “tele” ways of communication between patients and healthcare providers. Below are a few I found interesting.

Many patients need weekly or even daily follow up with the healthcare provider and may be homebound for a variety of reasons, requiring visiting nursing services to take their vitals and report to the other healthcare providers on their behalf. New telemonitoring technology can make these visits unnecessary if the patient is capable of using the technology themselves. Vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate, weight, blood glucose can be reported via telephone to the health care provider. It is a convenient way for patients to avoid travel and perform some of the more basic work of health care at home.

One of the most widely used telemedicines used is teleradiology. This enables a healthcare provider in one location to view patient images taken at other locations. Initially, teleradiology was developed for radiologist to view images remotely in emergency situations. This technology then expanded with the creation of the Internet and broadband technology, making a radiologist position a 24/7 job. This poses a problem in rural areas with only one technician. Advances in teleradiology allowed for the creation of off-site business designed specifically for on-call radiology services. Teleradiology also has great benefits for developing countries.

Mental health is very important to everyone. Hospitals and providers in rural areas do not always have the personnel or means for continued education to be very supportive to patients with mental health needs. Telemental health technology has changed that, by providing a means for those rural healthcare providers to continue their education and created the ability to reach outside sources via videoconferencing to support their patients. A very interesting new form of telemental health are apps developed for military personnel. These apps give education and assessments about the symptoms they may be feeling. It helps them gain awareness about their needs. One app in particular focuses on breathing techniques for the purpose of stress reduction.

Telehealth, Telemedicine, whichever you choose to call it, poses endless possibilities in business development and for reaching underserved patients. I believe that healthcare is in forward motion with the “tele” revolution so don’t be left behind. Educate yourself on what you can do to better the lives around you, near or far.

For a more indepth look and advantages and disadvantages of Telehealth see our article in this month’s newsletter title “Challenges to Telehealth Adoption”.

~ Kristen Price

For more information about Telehealth and ways to incorporate it into your business, Click Here.