Telehealth bridges the gap of time and distance between a patient and a healthcare provider. It permeates across geographical locations and barriers like the inability of patients to move and commute to a hospital. With telehealth solutions, uninterrupted patient care is provided to individuals without compromising on the standards.
As defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in a telehealth program, two-way, real-time interactive communication is enabled between the patient and the physician or a nurse practitioner, who are located in two different places. With the consistent observation of a patient’s health condition through both synchronous and asynchronous modes, telehealth aims to improve the health of the patient.
The systems that are required to establish a video call for interactive communication need basic equipment such as a smartphone with good internet connectivity. There is no need for large screens with good speakers as the call can be completed even with a good quality phone that can use messaging and video calling apps.
Modes of Telehealth Solutions
Telehealth can be delivered in three different modes based on the type of communication required at that moment. Sometimes more than one mode can be simultaneously used to assess the correct status of the physiological metrics. For instance, a patient discussing their condition with a doctor over a video call may be required to wear their RPM patches so that the clinic can measure the data right then. Most services offered in telehealth are similar to a hospital or clinical setup like:
- Low-risk health reviews
- Monitoring health conditions
- Managing prescriptions
- Follow-on consultations
- Patient Education
Here are the three modes of delivery for telehealth solutions:
Video calls are carried out in presence of the patient and the healthcare provider at the same time. This can be a planned virtual visit or an emergency which can be further followed up.
Some tasks like diagnostic reports can be emailed and alerts to check the same will be sent to the registered phone number. Most activities like patient education can be carried out by emailing PDF documents and explanatory videos to patients. These activities are useful in increasing patient engagement levels that translate into better outcomes.
Medical wearables are small devices with sensors that capture health-related conditions and relay information through the internet or Bluetooth connection. The data is also recorded in the application for patients to see on a real-time basis. Examples of RPM devices are oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, and activity trackers. These digital tools are enabling the availability of telemetry data.
Benefits of Telehealth in Healthcare
The advantages of telehealth are more profound than the visible ease of clinical consultations for remote patients. Telehealth is a compendium of services often juxtaposed with telemedicine. Nonetheless, the canopy of telehealth covers a host of non-clinical services like patient engagement and public health education. Here are some of the advantages that telehealth solutions bring to a healthcare facility:
Improved Patient Adherence
The flexibility to keep up with a doctor’s appointment from anywhere aids in reducing no-shows. When patients can consult with their doctors, they learn about their progress, current status, and future course of action. The doctor’s word is taken more seriously when it comes to prescription refills and adherence.
With a good bandwidth of internet and telehealth platforms to provide clinical and non-clinical solutions, healthcare facilities can reach out to more patients than the traditional route. An increase in patient bases will exacerbate a hospital’s reputation and extend the facilities to people who were not serviced by clinical facilities in the past.
Work-Life Balance for Clinical Staff
Hospital staff like nurses, doctors, and clinical assistants are overworked with workforce pressures not showing signs of easing. Telehealth services have taken off some of the workloads as most patients can be cared for similarly to in-person visits to a healthcare unit.
Telehealth has existed for a few decades and was first used by NASA. Though remote communication facilities existed for a while, full-fledged use has been possible post the pandemic when social distancing became a norm. Now that telehealth’s efficacy has been tested and proved for large-scale deployment, it will stay a part of healthcare.
Image Credits: Tima Miroshnichenko