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7 Benefits of Telemedicine

Published 2020-06-24 07:31:41

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) broadly defines Telemedicine as the delivery of health care services using information and communication technologies for the diagnosis of treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and education of health care providers at a distance.[1]

With origins tracing back to the 1950’s, the concept of Telemedicine was developed as an invention that initially served the military and space sectors. Since then, the emergence of advanced wireless broadband technology coupled with the ubiquitous nature of the internet have revolutionised the applications of Telemedicine. Now healthcare practitioners can use Telemedicine as a cost-effective tool to improve access to healthcare for individuals and their communities remotely.

1. Convenient Access to Healthcare

The global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the importance of Telemedicine in delivering patient care. Due to the nature of the virus, stringent lockdown protocols prohibiting travel from governments have been initiated, making access to healthcare a challenge for many.

While the use of Telemedicine is no substitute for physical consultation, this highlights the widespread benefit of Telemedicine as a convenient option for people who cannot go to the doctor’s office due to illness/chronic conditions, distance, rigid schedules, and those who prefer to stay home.

2. Cost-Effective

Remote consultation and monitoring reduce miscellaneous expenses related to an average hospital visit. Expenses such as petrol, parking, and public transportation are eliminated or otherwise drastically decreased. Furthermore, Telemedicine also eases the stress placed on elderly patients when transporting them and keeping them in waiting rooms for long periods of time.

Health practitioners who provide Telemedicine services may also incur fewer operating expenses such as paying for helpdesk support and decreased office rentals.

3. Remote Patient Monitoring

According to Statista, almost 4.57 billion people were active internet users as of April 2020, encompassing 59 percent of the global population.[2] Due to the widespread availability of the internet, remote patient management allows doctors to routinely check up on patients to evaluate factors such as medication adherence, post-operative lifestyle habits, prescription updates, and general wellness education.

A study was conducted by a nurse-led home video Telemedicine programme with 31 patients diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis. The study found that the majority of patients were able to stop alcohol intake, improve nutrition, and increase physical activity.[3]

4. Optimised Data Transfer

Time is a valuable resource in the health sector as it can be the difference between life and death. This makes Telemedicine a great tool as healthcare providers can exchange patient information remotely and securely. Doctors with access to the patient data have direct access to relevant information increasing productivity and clinical workflow. Furthermore, it allows healthcare professionals across several locations to communicate and make decisions on critical and time-sensitive cases.

A report published on the use of digital technology to aid liver disease management described the transfer of smartphone images from surgical trainees to a physician to make a real-time decision regarding a livers condition. This transmission took place 545km away from the university hospital.[4]

5. Increased Patient Engagement

Virtual consultations can help increase the level of involvement amongst patients. When a patient interacts virtually with a physician, they can report early warning signs, manage medication, make follow-up appointments, and access preventative care that contributes to healthier lifestyle choices.

6. Reduced Exposure to Illness

Physical consultations often expose people to infection if they are in close proximity of an infected individual. Areas such as waiting rooms, bathrooms, elevators, and hospital cafes are susceptible to being ‘transmission hotspots’. When healthcare providers consult patients remotely, it mitigates the risk of potential exposure to any viruses and bacteria.

7. Effective Patient Data Management

Whether it’s a family member, spouse, or healthcare provider, patients can access their medical records and share them securely from one source.  Due to the fact that Telemedicine reduces the need for paper-based methods, time-consuming activities such as looking up records, cross-referencing information, and re-storing records are eliminated. 

Shortcomings of Telemedicine

While Telemedicine presents a myriad of benefits for practitioners and patients, the technology does carry some disadvantages/challenges:  

1. There could be a breakdown in the relationship between patient and healthcare professional.

2. Patient records are susceptible to malicious programmes and spyware that could affect the integrity of the data and expose sensitive information to unauthorised parties.

3. The adoption of Telemedicine technologies in practices could result in job losses of administrative personnel. 

4. Developing nations are more likely to encounter resource issues such as high costs, underdeveloped infrastructure, and lack of technical expertise to be barriers to Telemedicine.[5]

Conclusion

While Telemedicine has its drawbacks, it is evident that the technologies benefits outweigh its limitations. As more research and development takes place to address the challenges, Telemedicine has proven throughout the decades that it is an effective conduit to quality patient care as healthcare professionals can treat patients remotely and provide medical support. In a world where technology is improving human life every day, Telemedicine represents itself a sustainable innovation that will contribute to making healthcare services accessible to any individual with an internet connection.

Lynx-HCF is a software solution that integrates the functionalities of Telemedicine with electronic medical records (EMR).

Read more about Lynx-HCF

 

 

 

[1] 2010. Telemedicine-Opportunities and Developments in Member States. 2nd ed. [ebook] Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press, pp.8-9. Available at: <https://www.who.int/goe/publications/goe_telemedicine_2010.pdf> [Accessed 1 June 2020]

[2] Clement, J., 2020. Global Digital Population 2020 | Statista. [online] Statista. Available at: <https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/> [Accessed 1 June 2020].

[3] 16. Thygesen GB, Andersen H, Damsgaard BS, et al. The effect of nurse performed telemedical video consultations for patients suffering from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis. J Hepatol 2017; 66: S349 [Accessed 1 June 2020]

[4] Ahmed A, Slosberg E, Prasad P, Keeffe EB, Imperial JC, J Clin Gastroenterol. The successful use of telemedicine in acute variceal hemorrhage. 1999 Sep; 29(2):212-3. [Accessed 1 June 2020]

[5] 2010. Telemedicine-Opportunities and Developments in Member States. 2nd ed. [ebook] Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press, pp.66. Available at: <https://www.who.int/goe/publications/goe_telemedicine_2010.pdf> [Accessed 1 June 2020].

 

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