What is Tele-Medicine?
According to Medicare.gov, telemedicine (which may also be referred to as telehealth, e-health or virtual healthcare) seeks to improve a patients health by permitting two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or practitioner at the distant site. This electronic communication means the use of interactive telecommunications equipment that includes, at a minimum, audio and video equipment.
Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, far away from local health facilities or in areas of with shortages of medical professionals. While telemedicine is still used today to address these problems, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care. Today’s connected patient wants to waste less time in the waiting room, and get immediate care for situations when they need it.
Many clinicians can use a telemedicine platform to offer virtual visits with their own patients.
What is the Difference between telemedicine and telehealth?
With the interrelated fields of mobile health, digital health, health IT, telemedicine all constantly changing with new developments, it’s sometimes difficult to pin down a definition for these terms. In much of the healthcare industry, the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are often used interchangeably.
However, if you want to get technical, telemedicine is really a subset of telehealth. Whereas telehealth is a broad term that includes all health services provided using telecommunications technology, telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services. There’s how the California Telehealth Resource Center defines telehealth:
“Telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.”
Telehealth may involve more general health services, like public health services, whereas telemedicine is a specific kind of telehealth that involves a clinician providing some kind of medical services.
For Example, Telehealth Could Be:
- A public health app that alerts the public of a disease outbreak
- A video-conferencing platform for medical education
Whereas Telemedicine is:
- A mobile app that lets clinicians treat their patients remotely via video-chat
- A software solution that lets primary care providers send patient photos of a rash or mole to a dermatologist at another location for quick diagnosis
What are the Telemedicine Pros and Cons?
In most cases, telemedicine is a net benefit. It expands access to quality patient care, especially to regions and underserved populations that need it the most.
However, telemedicine also has a few downsides — by nature of its virtual interaction, and because of societal and technological barriers that could change in the future. The good news is, with the growing popularity and widespread acceptance of telemedicine, we’re likely to see the cons of telemedicine resolve themselves. With new technological advancements and shifting policy that increasingly supports telemedicine, we’re continuously finding ways to improve telemedicine and make it a viable, even advantageous form of healthcare delivery for many medical scenarios.
Pros of Telemedicine
More convenient, accessible care for patients
More accessible, convenient healthcare for patients is the driving force behind the telemedicine field. Telemedicine was originally developed in the U.S. as a way to address care shortages, especially in remote rural areas. Now telemedicine is used around the world, whether it’s to provide basic healthcare in third-world countries or allow an elderly patient with mobility issues to see the doctor from home.
Saves on Healthcare costs
The U.S. spends over $2.9 trillion on healthcare every year, more than any other developed nation. On top of that, an estimated $200 billion of those costs are avoidable, unnecessary spending. Telemedicine has the power to cut our healthcare spending by reducing problems like medication non-adherence and unnecessary ER visits, and making typical clinician visits more efficient.
Extends access to consults from specialists
With telemedicine, a medical practice can immediately expand access to niche medical specialists. This makes it easy for patients to see a needed specialist, no matter their location.
Increasing patient engagement
Today’s patient lives in an increasingly connected world and expects a different kind of care experience. Telemedicine engages patients by allowing them to connect with their clinician more frequently, in a convenient way.
Better quality patient care
Telemedicine makes it easier for providers to follow-up with patients and make sure everything is going well. Whether they’re using a more extensive remote patient monitoring system to watch the patient’s heart, or doing a videochat– telemedicine leads to better care outcomes.
Requires technology use – Computer, webcams, mobile device, internet access.
May reduce in-person interactions with clinicians
Some critics of telemedicine argue that online interactions are impersonal, and physical meetings are often necessary to make a full diagnosis. If more patients are resorting to online interactions in place of in-person visits, what effects will that have?
In-person patient-clinician visits are clearly valuable and necessary in many circumstances. Telemedicine is best used to supplement these visits – to do simple check-ins with patients and make sure everything is going well. For some situations, an in-person visit with an established patient is often not needed. In those cases, telemedicine can save the patient, the clinician, and the healthcare system time and money.
If you feel you may benefit from tele-medicine counseling services, Leafwing Center can offer that service as well. We use a secure, confidential platform and you can “meet” with your therapist in a convenient, safe manner.