Telehealth and Telemedicine: What Are They and Why Are They Important?
Although telehealth and telemedicine have similar definitions and are used as interchangeable terms, they have vast differences in terms of their scope of use.
In simple terms, telehealth is the service of using electronic communication devices to provide healthcare services over long distances or even training support staff and continuing medical education.
Compared to telehealth, telemedicine is more narrow. It directly relates to providing medical care and provides a virtual connection between healthcare providers and patients. Telemedicine is the service of providing remote medical consultations and examinations to patients using electronic means.
Importance of Telehealth and Telemedicine
Over the years, technology has evolved at such a fast pace that its use in medicine is inevitable.
Several new technologies, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D Printing, and nanotechnology, have positively impacted how medical activities are conducted. For example, AI can be used to operate many teleservices, while 3D printing can generate organic tissue and organs.
Over the last year and a half, the use of telehealth and telemedicine has increased as a direct response to the ongoing pandemic. With telemedicine, it was easier for people to consult with their doctors from the safety of their homes.
So, how can you use technology to assist your medical needs?
There are multiple ways to achieve technological assistance, like:
mHealth is used to describe the use of mobile and wireless devices and applications to provide medical assistance and monitor medical health remotely. Examples of mHealth include applications to monitor diet, physical activities, fitness bands, and remote examination of symptoms.
mHealth is one of the more convenient options of telemedicine. The use of smartphones is widespread not only in developed countries but also in more economically poor, developing countries. mHealth allows for near-instant communication between not only patients and doctors but also among the medical team regarding a patient’s progress.
The only disadvantage of mHealth that remains prominent is the security of personal medical records. However, if the necessary security protocols are followed, then this risk can be lowered significantly.
2. Video Conferencing
Video conferencing can be done using mobile devices to get a face-to-face connection between patients and doctors. In general, you need a device that is capable of displaying video and processing audio. You may choose to have other input or output devices depending on the need for the virtual consultation.
The advantage of video conferencing comes in when there needs to be strict monitoring of a patient’s activities by a doctor. Then, if it is not necessary to go to the hospitals, it is quite convenient to attend the sessions over a digital medium. It also makes it easier for patients to ask questions safely, which may otherwise be embarrassing.
The downside of video conferencing is that it may cause a delay if the action to be taken is time bound and requires face-to-face interaction. Patients may also hesitate in arranging a video interaction as they may feel it is insufficient for their needs.
3. Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote Patient Monitoring, often shortened to RPM, allows doctors and medical service providers to receive information about their patients, often passively. RPM can be used remotely even when the patient is traveling, at home, or at work.
A few examples of RPM include glucose meters for monitoring sugar levels, blood pressure apparatus for checking blood pressure, oximeters to evaluate oxygen levels in the blood, and also heart rate monitors that assess the beats per minute in case of heart patients.
Using RPM helps doctors and other healthcare providers change their approach to diagnosis depending on the reports they receive from various monitoring devices. First, however, you need to ensure that the devices are in peak working conditions at all times to receive accurate results.
How Has Telemedicine Changed the Future Approach to Medicine?
The current ongoing pandemic scenario has changed the way technology is perceived, especially in the healthcare domain. With restrictions in force, telehealth and telemedicine have been a life-saver in terms of consulting with doctors and keeping an eye on general health.
Telemedicine has been a tremendous boon as the demand for healthcare surges. With telehealth technology, patients are not hesitant in sharing their symptoms, allowing doctors to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Doctors and healthcare providers also have increased productivity as there is a significant reduction in traveling time.
Therapy sessions, check-ins, medical studies, and others have a greater scope with the evolving technological methods in the medical domain. In addition, virtual reality (VR) has an increasing scope in ensuring that telemedicine reaches new heights in healthcare.
Currently, it is difficult to provide the necessary healthcare consistently in rural or less developed countries due to multiple limitations. However, technological advances in medicine could help a great deal in ensuring personalized healthcare for everyone.
In conclusion, although there may be certain limitations in how telemedicine can help, renewed interest from investors and governments can go a long way in strengthening the healthcare domain.