Telemedicine is becoming a hugely popular health care product, and a great way to connect doctors and medical facilities with patients. Although many people are still not familiar with its application or availability, the medical community is acutely aware of the cost savings and efficacy of providing direct access between the healer and the sick.
As a matter of fact, the American Medical Association has stated that 70 percent of physician visits and 40 percent of hospital ER visits can be handled by a phone call. Of course, emergencies and difficult diagnoses are most readily addressed by going to a health care provider.
Telemedicine (sometimes called telehealth) has several advantages. And, the vast majority of patients like using this type of service. A survey by EHR research firm Software Advice found that just 6 percent of patients who have used telemedicine didn’t perceive any benefits over in-person visits. The remaining patients cited the following benefits of virtual appointments:
- 21 percent – quality of care
21 percent – don’t have to travel
20 percent – comfort of home
11 percent – quick access to care
10 percent – shorter wait time
9 percent – easy to use
8 percent – avoid waiting room
4 percent – cost effective
So, those 6 percent would likely have complained about anything. You can’t make everyone happy. But a 94 percent success ratio is better than most options when considering ways to deliver patient care. Primarily, people said it is so much more convenient. They save time from leaving work or school and save money. The convenience dominates over all other aspects.
And employers like it as it keeps the absenteeism rate low. Benefits to employers include not having to reimburse a doctor for the expense of an office visit and not having employees spend half of a work day waiting to talk to a physician to get a prescription for a relatively simple health issue, such as a sore throat or other minor ailment.
Sometimes telemedicine is best understood in terms of the services provided and the mechanisms used to provide those services, according to the American Telemedicine Association. Here are some examples:
Primary care and specialist referral services may involve a primary care or allied health professional providing a consultation with a patient or a specialist assisting the primary care physician in rendering a diagnosis. This may involve the use of live interactive video or the use of store and forward transmission of diagnostic images, vital signs and/or video clips along with patient data for later review.
Remote patient monitoring, including home telehealth, uses devices to remotely collect and send data to a home health agency or a remote diagnostic testing facility for interpretation. Such applications might include a specific vital sign, such as blood glucose or heart ECG or a variety of indicators for homebound patients. Such services can be used to supplement the use of visiting nurses.
Consumer medical and health information includes the use of the Internet and wireless devices for consumers to obtain specialized health information and on-line discussion groups to provide peer-to-peer support.
Medical education provides continuing medical education credits for health professionals and special medical education seminars for targeted groups in remote locations.