It is not uncommon that I may need to consult with another doctor my patient sees, or consult with another cardiologist about my patient’s condition. Medicine is just beginning to take full advantage of 21st century communications technology to facilitate health information sharing between doctors. This is the magic of Telemedicine and I’d like to tell you how it can benefit your health.
Telemedicine Brings Healthcare into the 21st Century
It is summer and you’re on vacation in another state in a rural area where you went to get away from it all. Suddenly, you start having chest pains and the local EMS transports you to the nearest community hospital. You give the ER personnel your doctor’s name back home and in a few minutes, the medical personnel have your pertinent medical records. They then know if you have a pre-existing heart condition, what drugs you may be taking, what you’re allergic to, your past medical history, whatever surgeries you may have had, and whatever other condition you may have that they need to know about to treat you effectively.
In addition, your doctor/at-home healthcare facility can email recent EKG studies, echocardiogram images, angiograms, or other heart tests, to the facility where you are, to possibly eliminate the need for new studies. The treating ER doctor can consult with your doctor, by Smart phone, email, Skype, or instant message to involve your doctor in your care as if they were right there with you. They can also, if need be, consult with a specialist in another city, state or country via video conferencing. That specialist can even perform a consultation on you using the assistance of in-person personnel and information that’s sent via Telemedicine. Even your vital signs can be monitored via Telemedicine. Therefore, someone is always manning the “smart tools” so that you get the best possible care from healthcare facilities that use them.
In the last few years, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare institutions have been investing in Telemedicine technology more and more and it has proven a worthy investment. Patient care has improved significantly – especially in remote healthcare facilities – as a result of using Telemedicine tools.
Telemedicine is not just for doctors’ convenience. It can also be used on the consumer level via wireless devices to obtain health information using the internet, check in with doctors via “apps” on their Smart Phones that allow them to report their blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. EKG findings can be transmitted via Smart Phone on a homebound patient with the assistance of an in-person aid or used to assess a stroke victim in the field. Telemedicine can even help patients find and join online support groups for peer support.
Telemedicine also makes it easy for medical personnel to further their medical education by using online seminars and video conferencing. This is especially helpful for doctors located in rural and remote areas that want to further their education and keep up on the latest trends but may not be able to travel to an in-person conference.
Here are 4 reasons why Telemedicine is becoming so popular:
1. Better healthcare. Telemedicine brings better healthcare to patients in remote areas where there are terrain challenges (unpaved, mountain roads), shortages of hospitals, clinics and physicians. School-based health centers in remote areas can hook into Telemedicine and assess the health of school children rather than a parent coming to pick them up to take them to a distant healthcare facility. Through Telemedicine, school nurses, physician-assistants, can often treat the child via video conference with a doctor in another area.
2. Reduces the cost of healthcare. Allowing doctors to hook up over the phone/satellite with consultants rather than necessitating a specialist to travel to a distant location, saves a lot of time and money on travel.
3. Improvement in quality. Where Telemedicine has been in use, the quality of care has improved. In fact in some specialties of medicine, ICU and Mental Health, the quality of healthcare is more often superior to in-person consultations.
4. Ease of use/convenience for patients. Telemedicine technologies allow patients to spend less travel time and money to consult with their doctors. It’s also more practical for homebound patients, or those without transportation, people without healthcare insurance who are relegated to go only to facilities who will accept them. Patients can connect via telemedicine apps from their Smart Phone, or laptop, to convey necessary information to their doctors.
Telemedicine is a rapidly growing part of medical/health communications between doctors, as well as patients and their doctors. It has boosted the confidence of patients knowing that, if they become ill far from home, their own doctor will be able to be reached quickly by the people taking care of them wherever they are. Telemedicine also helps to equalize the flow of medical information between doctors. A specialist in a given field can educate a physician not familiar with certain practices to enable him to give the most up-to-date care to patients. If one of my patients has a problem with his/her heart while traveling, I know I’ll be able to get firsthand knowledge of the problem and be able to input care recommendations to my patient just as if they were right in front of me.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.
Natural Health News
What Is Telemedicine? http://www.americantelemed.org/learn