Information technology has dramatically changed the frontier of every human endeavor, furthering our reach and fast forwarding innovation. But for the most part, the role of IT in healthcare was limited to categorizing and storing of data.
Many healthcare professionals and IT experts have started experimenting with the possibilities of information technology. Telehealth is one such growing trend explored in a field.
Telehealth refers to using information technology to communicate with peers and patients to remotely facilitate diagnosis, consultation, administrate care and treatment. Telehealth is a broader concept than telemedicine, as it includes non-clinical services such as provider training and administrative services.
The concept of telehealth has many advantages for providers and patients, some of which are:
1. Eliminate Geographic Disadvantage:
Telehealthcare tools will enable providers to overcome the geographic barrier by bringing care to patients. Patients in remote and rural areas can connect with specialists and get the quality care they need. Specialists do not have to spend hours traveling to locations and can use those saved hours to treat more patients.
2. Monitoring and Surveillance:
Patient monitoring devices allow patients with high risk to be remotely monitored effectively. This has implications for healthcare professionals and relatives who live at a distance. With the help of such devices, a gap in care can be detected easily, the reaction to medications can be studied, and providers can immediately intervene when the situation demands it.
3. Improve Healthcare Outcome:
The use of modern patient tracking & monitoring technologies in healthcare makes it easy for provider communication. It helps in early diagnosis thus reducing mortality rates. It also brings in better outcome by creating a better care experience.
4. Provider Retention:
Effective implementation and usage of coordinated care system can reduce area isolation by creating a network of peers from nearby areas and communities. Providers have the liberty to access information that is critical for patient recovery based on the inputs from wearables and patient tracking devices. Teleconferencing can be used for sharing information, extending care, taking medical actions when necessary.
5. Care for the Chronically Ill and Patients in Transition:
Telehealth technologies such as virtual care or home monitoring system could benefit chronically ill patients and the patients in transition. Providers can extend guidance in certain procedures, monitor treatment outcomes and implement other care activities. Acting as an additional layer of care, telehealth could be a vital tool in identifying and acting upon real-time data, reducing costly readmission and ICU visits.
Some studies show a correlation between implementation of telehealth and decrease in mortality, which certainly is a great sign of efficiency.
The concept of telehealth has been around in some form or the other for more than a decade but it is yet to be mainstream. The reasons for which are its drawbacks which can be generally categorized into two, operational and legal.
Operational disadvantages include the unreliability of information from health monitoring devices, quality of communication and the need for technical know-how.
The hurdles of legality in rendering telehealth are many, including the licensure and cross-jurisdictional regulations of practice and standards and the lack of laws regarding reimbursement.
But despite these arbitrary drawbacks, telehealth as a concept holds great promises for improving quality of healthcare. And as payers look more closely into the possibility of reducing expensive checkups and hospital admission, telehealth could provide an answer going forward.