Telemedicine in Practice – Virtual Conferencing and Remote Monitoring

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015 19:00

Telemedicine has become a proven way for the health care industry to increase its reach to patients, while offering flexibility in scheduling, operational efficiencies, and improved patient outcomes. This month, we have chosen to highlight two telemedicine applications — virtual conferencing and remote monitoring — which we believe offer significant impacts on the future of healthcare.

Virtual Conferencing / Chat:

An alternative for fast-paced consumers who don’t have time to fit a doctor’s appointment into their busy schedules, virtual conferencing and chat technologies offer instant access to physicians, nurses or specialists via web cam, phone, mobile app, PC or text messaging. With more patients and fewer medical experts available to treat them in many cases, conferencing and chat technologies can offer a viable solution, as well as some of the following benefits:

One company currently offering video conferencing is American Well (http://www.amwell.com), a service accredited by the American Telemedicine Association. Available via web or a downloadable mobile app, American Well connects patients with available doctors, who can see and treat patients from anywhere, 24/7/365, with a cost per visit of just $49 via credit/debit or HAS/FSA cards. Most physicians are primary care doctors, but all are U.S. trained, Board certified, licensed and credentialed with an average of 10 to 15 years of experience.

Another popular web and mobile app is called Doctor on Demand (http://www.doctorondemand.com), which was co-founded by the executive producer of The Doctors TV show. According to the company’s website, the average wait time to see a physician in the U.S. is three weeks, and many patients, particularly those with mental health issues, go untreated. The Doctor on Demand application was designed to help address this problem. Touted as “The Better Way to Feel Better,” this application features virtual video conferencing with doctors, psychologists, and other clinical experts in the patient’s state from a phone or computer at a cost of $40 per visit. Some of the common ailments they can treat include cold and flu, sports injuries, eye conditions or gastrointestinal issues, but they don’t treat chronic or complex conditions such as heart conditions or cancer. Like American Well, they also feature leading, board-certified physicians, and also feature a patient rating system.

With many similar teleconferencing and consult-a-doctor applications on the market, and many more in development, consumers will continue to have choices when it comes to visiting a physician

Remote Patient Monitoring:

Another major category of telemedicine in action includes the remote monitoring practice. Remote patient monitoring via a portable or wearable device offers a way for physicians to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and other illnesses without requiring the patient to schedule follow-up or routine doctor visits. Using digital technologies, these remote monitoring devices can collect medical and other health data from a patient and transmit it electronically to a healthcare provider or monitoring center to review and diagnose. Patients can also record and monitor symptoms to aid in diagnosis. Some of the benefits of remote patient monitoring include

Wearable devices offer a way for patients to view and monitor their own readings via a website or mobile app, and transmit information to clinicians, who can monitor for any risks. It also allows both patients and physicians to look at trends in the patient’s readings to improve upon diagnoses and better manage a patient’s condition. Some of the routinely monitored patient measurements that remote monitoring can accommodate include:

The home health industry is poised to take advantage of the mobile monitoring market, as the aging baby boomer population needs more care at home and at skilled facilities. In addition, segments of the market such as ambulatory care currently benefit from remote monitoring technologies. Philips Electronics offers a compact, wearable patient monitor that patients can use when being transported via ambulance or in any care setting. The IntelliVue brand of patient monitors offers waterproof, portable and touchscreen options for clinicians to measure and report on patient data in real time.

In the growing diabetes market, many applications exist to upload blood glucose readings to send information with physicians. Using these devices, patients can better manage their condition through monitoring and self-care, and physicians can analyze the data and trends to make clinical decisions. Soon, a majority of these devices will automatically sync health data into electronic health records and health information exchanges.

The Future of Telemedicine

In time, many of these telemedicine applications will evolve. Eventually, they will integrate fully into health care operations and the total patient experience. From the medical insight gained from remote monitoring devices to the benefits of virtual communication between physicians and patients, the health care landscape continues to change — and improve — with the adoption of new technologies.