The Key Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is increasingly becoming an integral part of the American healthcare system. It allows providers to use telecommunications technology to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients from a distance. This is especially helpful for patients in rural areas or those who are unable to travel to see a specific practitioner. These remote medical services work using secure audio and video connections and specialized software that allows doctors to communicate with patients. Common uses of telemedicine include follow-up visits, specialist consultations, and management of chronic conditions.
Telemedicine is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like telehealth, e-health, and virtual health, but they’re not quite synonymous. While the terminology is evolving along with the tech, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, telemedicine typically refers to practicing medicine from a distance using telecommunications equipment like telephone or secure video conferencing. Telehealth, e-health, and virtual health are broader terms that encompass a range of both healthcare providers and technologies, such as apps and artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. Regardless of how these terms evolve, the goals of using technology to support healthcare providers are to improve patient health while increasing provider efficiency and potentially reducing costs.
Some key benefits of telemedicine
There are many ways that technology and the practice of medicine can converge to better support patients. Here are just a few examples highlighting those benefits.
Patient self-service options
Gathering background information before a patient visit makes doctor-patient interactions more efficient and focused. Some healthcare providers use self-service apps or components of their websites that allow patients to access information and ask questions. AI chatbots can guide patients through a series of questions while gathering information before connecting with or seeing a doctor.
Virtual provider collaboration
Telemedicine isn’t only used between doctors and patients. It can also connect specialists and medical team members to collaborate about patient care in emergency situations like a stroke or heart attack and also to coordinate ongoing patient care. Another benefit of telemedicine is that doctors can also use it to collaborate with specialists with different areas of expertise that may benefit their patients. Finally, in instances where a legal guardian or family member may wish to communicate about patient care, telemedicine allows for secure and HIPAA-compliant collaboration with a patient’s medical team.
Improved facility design
Healthcare organizations can add structural supports for telemedicine into new and existing facilities. By incorporating secure cables and ports along with cameras, speakers, and monitors into medical facilities and offices, healthcare providers can more easily provide care both on-site and virtually. For example, by setting up infrastructure for telemedicine, a healthcare provider may be able to virtually answer questions in real time and help patients determine whether a visit to the ER is warranted.
Decreased travel for patients
There are a variety of reasons why patients may be unable to easily travel to see a doctor. They can include people living in rural areas, people with certain disabilities or chronic conditions, people who live far from a specific specialist, and patients recovering from surgery at home. Telemedicine can allow patients in these situations to check in with their doctor or specialist without the burden and discomfort of long-distance travel.
Cost savings for healthcare organizations and providers
Healthcare costs are on everyone’s mind in the medical field. Another potential benefit of telemedicine is decreased healthcare costs from streamlining systems and facilities. Some practitioners could work from home or in an office space, for example. If a particular practice or organization can address some key patient questions and issues virtually, that can reduce overhead costs for equipment and clinic space.
Because technology and healthcare are continually evolving, the nature of telemedicine will likely look much different a decade from now. However, it’s still important to be aware of the currently available options and potential benefits of telemedicine to both providers and patients.
Whatever opportunity you are looking for — from a large hospital system in an urban setting to a small physician group in a rural community, Strelcheck Healthcare Search can help you find the ideal practice and place to call home. To learn more about our Recruiting Services call 262-241-9500.