When considering ‘What is telehealth?’ you will see many different definitions but, at its most basic, telehealth is treatment or care that is administered by a medical professional to a remotely-based patient via modern communications technology.
Telehealth consists of health data collection and health data transfer, and communication between caregiver and patient who are based remotely and use modern computing equipment to complete the communication involved. There are a number of different types of telehealth including:
- Store-and-forward: Store-and-forward telehealth is one of the main ways that telehealth is used. It makes patient records and medical data more accessible no matter what the location is. Medical data, including images, test results, bio-signals, lab reports, and substantial files can be communicated (stored-and-forwarded) to any location. Also, this method does not necessitate simultaneous attention of the delivering and receiving parties. The data can be shared and received at different times and collection places. A caregiver can gather the data, upload it and send it, and leave the data for review by another supplier subsequent to this usage.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Remote patient monitoring puts caregivers in a position to remain up to date on the latest condition of their patients’ health remotely. Remote patient monitoring is an excellent solution for providing treatment when attending outpatient appointments in person cannot occur. Also, when the individual’s health condition is not life-threatening this method of treatment reduces the time a patient spends in the hospital allowing them to rehabilitate in an outpatient setting. Remote patient monitoring technology communicates patient medical data on an ongoing basis with the patient’s care team. This technology shares the data automatically, leading to active ongoing treatment monitoring in a more passive data collection process. If any problems with the patient should occur, members of the care team can respond at once.
- Real-time Telemedicine: Real-time telehealth refers to real-time care between a doctor and patient at any point in time from any location. Real-time telehealth consists of all two-way communications involving a link being established using video conferencing and phone consultations, that connect providers and patients. Reviews of medical history, visual examinations for many ailments, psychiatric evaluations, and other types of care can be conducted using real-time telehealth.
- Physician-to-physician consultations: Using telehealth technologies, physicians can link up to provide a broader range of treatment. For example, a primary physician can simply access a specialist without the need to attend in person, but with more clarity than just a phone call provides. Physicians also can obtain greater access to a wider variety of specialists that they may have at their immediate disposal. Telehealth allows the sharing of patient information quickly and can lead to better patient outcomes in part because of the immediacy of the care that can be called on..
- Medical Imaging: Modern telehealth technology speeds up how X-rays, scans, and other images are communicated between locations. By sending these images, they can be reviewed at any time by any licensed radiologist logged onto the system. Thus, patients are no longer reliant on their local radiologist for review of their images. Many groups have agreements with networks of radiologists all over the country, who review images remotely as necessary.
In order for it to be successful, telehealth technology must be 100% safe and secure so that patient privacy is guaranteed and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is being complied with.
The current COVID19 pandemic has seen an ever speedier implementation of services like this that was predicted. Patients are becoming more and more familiar with the technology as they use it for services such as counselling, physiotherapy updates and to meet a range of other needs. The telemedicine industry is currently booming and will continue to do so even after the effects of the pandemic subside.
As this service continues to grow and grow it will be important for providers and patients to fully understand the full scope of what is achievable and what is required to do these tasks safely and securely.