While it’s true that the healthcare industry sets the pace regarding the application of advanced medical technology and equipment for patient treatment, healthcare providers haven’t shown the same leadership when it comes to working with patient information. The outdated methods that healthcare facilities use to store and communicate patients’ information create all sorts of breakdowns at key communication and service points throughout the healthcare experience. These often include administrative overload, wasted resources, compromised or ineffective care, and patient confusion and disorientation.
Communication between all parties involved in a care plan is a vital component of the healthcare continuum, but the healthcare industry has only recently begun to adopt measures to make administrative tasks more efficient and close connection gaps between providers and patients. Still, this new perspective is a welcome sight — better late than never, after all — and it’s already helping to streamline the patient experience from start to finish.
What Is Telemedicine?
The practice of employing digital communication within the healthcare sphere is commonly known as telemedicine. The American Telemedicine Association defines telemedicine as, “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.
Telemedicine includes numerous forms of patient communication and consultation, including video conferencing, still images, remote monitoring, wellness applications, and continuing education. The mediums for telemedicine continue to multiply, but the most common now include video, email, and smartphone apps.
While hospitals began sharing diagnostic images via telephone signals as early as the 1950s, the concept of telemedicine wasn’t truly put into practice until the early 1970s as a way of providing follow-up care to patients in remote areas. However, the early practice of telemedicine was rudimentary due to the limitations of technology at the time.
Today, telemedicine is an element of healthcare that should be offered wherever and whenever appropriate and possible. At Canopy Health, our Patient Portal provides our patients with direct and convenient access to their medical records and billing statements as well as one-on-one communication with their physicians, among many other technical applications.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine offers many benefits to patients, providers, and administrators alike, including:
- Direct and Convenient Access to Care and Information: Telemedicine allow patients to access providers from the convenience of any location at any time, which is especially important for patients and/or providers who receiving or providing care in remote or underserved areas. It also extends the reach of providers while decreasing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks.
- Reduced Cost and Increased Efficiency: Exorbitant costs and lack of convenience are two of the primary complaints levied against the healthcare industry. Telemedicine helps mitigate expenses and increase convenience by reducing administrative bureaucracy, travel times, lengthy appointments, and hospital stays while also supporting the successful management of chronic diseases through more effective patient monitoring and continuing education.
- Patient Engagement: One benefit of telemedicine that often gets overlooked is the way that it allows patients to become more engaged with their health and wellness. Much of this is achieved through continued education, such as the use of alert notifications to inform patients about new content pieces related to their condition or emails urging them to opt in to a new wellness class being offered through their network. It could also include monthly video conferences with a provider to ensure that the patient is continuing on with their treatment plan. Regardless of how the message is transmitted or what it consists of, studies continue to show that telemedicine increases patient involvement, which in turn leads to better health outcomes.
- Patient and Provider Demand: Perhaps the most attractive element of telemedicine is the simple fact that patients and providers both prefer it in most instances. It is a convenient and effective form of healthcare communication that requires little physical work or wasted time, and through the use of effective and appropriate channels, messaging remains consistent, direct, and on-topic. Add in the fact that it eliminates travel times, lengthy office waits, and scheduling fiascos, and it’s easy to see why telemedicine is having such a major impact on the present state of the healthcare industry.
As you can see, telemedicine provides numerous benefits in the areas of health care, communication, administration, and education, but it can’t work optimally unless patients, providers, and administrators alike take the time to familiarize themselves with existing and emerging systems.
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Telemedicine Guide. (2016). eVisit. Retrieved from https://evisit.com/what-is-telemedicine/