The Many Uses of Telemedicine
As medical professionals and patients are both finding, there are many uses of telemedicine and telehealth. Some of the top ways doctors are using telemedicine include:
A shortage of specialists in many parts of the country has poised the tech-savvy cardiology office to adapt to the telemedicine model and begin to fill the gaps. Telecommunications technology enables cardiologists to receive their patients’ detailed information and subsequently work with and manage medications for patients across the country.
Patients benefit by having access to the best cardiologists in the country without having the added expense of travel; additionally, choosing telemedicine over traditional in-person visits can also save money, depending on how the office structures such pricing.
Chronic Illness and Limited Mobility
For chronically ill patients, whether the nature of their illness is autoimmune, musculoskeletal, or the result of a degenerative disease process like diabetes, telemedicine is more than convenient. It can make the difference between being able to attend appointments consistently and not being able to make it to the office at all. Chronic illnesses can be unpredictable, often necessitating that patients cancel their appointments the day of; this causes excess financial strain on the patient and complicates things from an administrative point of view.
For patients with limited mobility, being able to connect with their physicians remotely is one way they can achieve increased equality of access. While physicians are required to offer ADA accessible facilities, this doesn’t help patients whose mobility limitations come with pain, or those whose limitations create undue time constraints. When access to healthcare is established with the touch of an icon, it’s empowering for patients, and relieves undue stress.
Since psychiatric treatment is nearly entirely based on verbal and written communication between patient and physician, telemedicine is the perfect venue for establishing this avenue of communication in a hassle-free way. Patients can still interact with their providers “face-to-face” with telecommunications technology, yet they don’t have to find time to make appointments that involve travel and time spent in waiting rooms. Furthermore, most pharmacies will mail medications directly to a patient’s home, so psychiatry has the potential to be nearly entirely suited to the patient’s convenience. This should result in more compliance with treatment plans and improve patient outcomes in both short- and long-term assessments.
Telemedicine is newly being explored for sports medicine, but research has indicated that patients were highly satisfied with their remote access experiences. Once a patient has been diagnosed and physical therapy has been established, connecting remotely with providers yields the same benefits without the added strain and expense of travel and in-office visits.
For routine childhood illnesses like ear infections, cold viruses, and things like fifths disease and minor skin issues, telemedicine serves multiple purposes. First, it decreases strain on sick children and their parents by allowing them to avoid the stress of traveling to the office and waiting for an appointment. Additionally, keeping sick children away from healthy children who are visiting the doctor for routine check-ups benefits the whole community; things like the common cold and fifths disease spread easily and cannot be immunized against. Therefore, separating the sick population from the healthy population is a very effective strategy to avoid spreading illness.
Additionally, there may be a minor psychological benefit to the child with avoiding associating the doctor’s office with feeling terrible; if the child can stay at home snuggled up with mom and dad instead of having to get dressed and go sit on the exam table, so much the better for their state of mind.
Minor Urgent Care Issues
Minor urgent care problems, such as cuts, earaches, ear infections, and flu symptoms can all be initially assessed via telemedicine. A physician can determine what the next steps should be; when at-home care is appropriate, a doctor can give instructions remotely, and if further care is needed, the doctor will direct the patient or caregiver to the type of care that is indicated by the situation.
Because access to telemedicine means minor urgent care patients don’t have to visit urgent care or the emergency room in the middle of the night, resources are freed up to care for those who present with true emergencies. From the patient’s perspective, connecting to a doctor remotely is likely to be preferred over having to travel to an urgent care or emergency facility.
Birth Control Consultations
When patients need information about new types of birth control or have questions about side effects or instructions regarding their current birth control, telemedicine is a great fit. While appointments with OBGYNs often need to be made months in advance, a quick birth control consultation can be fitted in between standard appointments. This benefits patients, providers, and insurance companies financially and from a time-management standpoint.