Everything You Need to Know About Telemedicine

Telemedicine has become increasingly integrated into the medical field, especially in recent years with access to rapid communications technology continuing to be a part of everyday life. Telemedicine has plenty of benefits: it’s highly accessible, cost-effective, and lends itself to quick and efficient information transfer between patient and doctor. Telemedicine has actually been in use since the 1950s, but it is now experiencing an especially significant usage boom due to new technologies.

Telemedicine Defined 

So what is telemedicine? Telemedicine, put simply, is healthcare administered remotely through available communication technologies to reach patients who are not able to easily access those services in person. 

Telemedicine Through Time 

Telemedicine, as we mentioned earlier, has been in use since the 1950’s, but truly started to gain traction in the 1960’s, when it was put into practice to better reach individuals who needed psychological evaluations at Norfolk State Hospital. This was done through a closed-circuit TV system, with the evaluator over 100 miles away! 

While Telemedicine was initially created with rural communities living outside of easily accessible health care networks in mind, it became apparent that health care was also difficult to access even in urban settings for some communities. It was upon this realization that the investment and planning structure of what telemedicine could be changed; the United States government got increasingly more involved in investing in this technology, with government departments from Health and Human Services to NASA investing in research. 

Modern Telemedicine 

Jump to the present, and those decades of research and investment, along with significant advances in technology, have gone a long way in making telemedicine more accessible. In particular the widespread use of wireless tech like smartphones and tablets, and increased accessibility to wireless internet has made it possible to use telemedicine practically anywhere. 

Because of this telemedicine is used for a number of different remote applications, including: 

  • Managing chronic illness
  • Preventative care
  • Follow up visits
  • Supporting assisted living
  • Providing healthcare in rural areas

Because technological literacy has increased so much in the past few decades, a video call with a healthcare professional is an experience that people have become familiar with, making it an easy to understand and convenient alternative to in-person visits. 

How Telemedicine Works 

Telemedicine is largely used when patients have minor but urgent health issues that they want to speak to a professional about, and is typically available 24/7. Here’s how it works:  

  1. Patients request care with a submission that includes the symptoms and conditions that they are experiencing, either online or over the phone.

  2. A physician, contracted by the telemedicine company, receives the patient submission.

  3. The physician assesses the patient’s condition and symptoms. After the initial assessment the physician accepts or declines the visit immediately, or schedules a visit for a later date. 

The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine

Telemedicine offers some significant benefits:

  • Access to 24/7 care.
  • Easier, more convenient access to a physician. 
  • Reduced costs, both for patients and facilities.
  • Increased patient engagement.
  • Increased access for patients with accessibility barriers to conventional care. 
  • Less waiting

But naturally also has its share of challenges as well: 

  • Limited accessibility for physical examinations.
  • Lack of proper equipment at hospitals.
  • Technological glitches.
  • Assessment and diagnosis errors. 
  • Resistance from doctors.

Telemedicine has exciting possibilities for the present and the future, although it does have some issues to work out. It cannot replace the value of an in-person visit, but as a supplement to care and a vehicle for greater accessibility, it is a technology with exciting potential!