Although initially considered by some of the critics as ‘far away in future’ and ‘still in experimental stages’, telemedicine is a living and thriving reality today. India, with masses of talented people, is a nation of underdeveloped physical infrastructure. Telemedicine provides a potential opportunity to leapfrog steep challenges faced by such existing inadequacies in physical infrastructure for healthcare services.
Telemedicine is a system where doctors and patients can share information in real time from faraway locations one computer system to another. They can have patient’s check-up through medical devices and can also capture the readings for diagnosis. Telemedicine is widely applicable in patient care, public health, and administration, hospitals and education.
System and Network Set-up
Telemedicine technology comprises software and peripheral components such as web camera and dish antenna to receive the signals or a broadband connection. There is an interface created between hardware, software and communication channels with satellites or internet to ultimately bridge two people in different locations.
Utilities for Patients
Patients and doctors can interact via the webcam-based interface, and communicate for diagnosis and treatment. When patients need to consult with their primary care physicians, they can submit the request in the system. The physicians placed at a remote location are immediately notified and can respond by activating an audio-visual interface. Even if the concerned physician is not available the request is transferred to other doctors in the national network.
Unlike in general hospitals where they may have to wait for an appointment, telemedicine provides instant access to doctors. The service can be made available to patients with medical consultation off hours. Especially with the critical necessity of specialist doctors who may not be available locally. They can help monitor the rare and chronic conditions of the patient.
Telehealth for Common Man
The terms telemedicine and telehealth are many times used as synonyms. But some of the experts are of opinion that telemedicine is the physician focused term and tele-health is used to refer all health professionals. Hospitals or healthcare organizations involved in implementing telehealth or telemedicine will be able to distinguish between the two as technology becomes advanced and popular for the common man.
Benefits of Telemedicine
The biggest benefit is the availability of expert specialist to all patients in remote locations if the need arises. Patients can avoid the cost of transportation or avoid wasting time in traffic with video consultations from the comforts of his home. Individuals engaged by their work can also schedule a consultation during a break or even after work hours and will not miss any day of work for the sake of minor health problems. As specialists are rare and short in supply, patients like children or elderly people can use telemedicine solutions without the struggle for their specific health concerns.
Recent Trends for Adopting New Technology
Patient self-monitoring was a big trend recently for using the medical records and health-related data with modern devices and smartphones available. For example, small digital devices are available today which can track patient ECG’s and send the report to doctors, providing an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals to monitor cardiovascular activity.
Hospitals and insurance companies are using emerging cloud technology to store electronic medical records. These are accessible to patients also who can see their test results and medical reports online. One of the main reasons why it has enjoyed success is because of increased customer satisfaction numbers. Telemedicine and related mobile applications are much more efficient in data collection and making research much more reliable with the well-documented database.
Implementing a Telemedicine Project
Telemedicine program should be that helps in identifying the specific needs of a community. These needs can be susceptibility to certain ailments or nutritional deficiencies as a result of cultural or social bias. Geographical variations also communities may have a large number of citizens who need diabetes or nutrition related counseling.
Training of Staff for Patients’ Acceptance
Well-trained professionals, related to both technical aspects and health care emergencies, must be available with adequate knowledge, experience, and job-related skills. The team implementing telemedicine project should ensure that the standard procedure is followed while using the equipment.
Patient’s acceptance is an important parameter where patients can feel comfortable using the facilities and that can save time for other social activities. In addition to connecting patients with a primary care physician, telemedicine can facilitate access to specialists and super-specialists and also to the team of experts in particular kind of disease. Telemedicine saves time and money by avoiding travel for both doctors and patients. It also allows patients to remain in their communities, which means they will fill prescriptions, purchase healthcare accessories etc.
Emerging Frontiers in Telemedicine
Telemedicine technology is emerging as one of the fastest growing segments in the healthcare industry. Many organizations are taking it as a preferred destination to park their money and investment is increasing steadily. The global telemedicine market has shown the growth by around 18% CAGR. Readily accessible care, reduced healthcare costs, productive workforce, and enhanced patient experience are some of the main reasons why telemedicine is becoming popular. A shifting economic background, developments within the healthcare industry, responsive and conducive legislative environment have already created fertile ground for telemedicine to grow. Smartphones and internet-capable mobile devices may be the driving factor behind the success of telemedicine. The gadgets and the growing popularity of artificial intelligence and the internet of things are taking the possibilities to new heights. Out of healthcare delivery methods intended to play a greater role in healthcare, telemedicine is the most promising one.