Telemedicine was 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.
Today, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care. Patients wants to waste less time in the waiting room at the doctor, and get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they need it.
This desire for more convenient care, combined with the unavailability of many overburdened medical professionals have led to the creation of telemedicine apps.
Many telemedicine apps offer patients 24/7 access to medical care with an on-call doctor in the local area.
Others offer hospitals and larger health centers access to extra clinical staff and specialists, for outsourcing of special cases.
Still others provide a telemedicine platform for physicians to use to offer virtual visits with their own patients.
Increasingly, telemedicine is becoming a way to give medical practices an edge in a competitive healthcare landscape where it’s difficult to provide the best healthcare while increasing availability.
Telemedicine is simply defined as, “the remote delivery of healthcare services“.
There are 3 common types of telemedicine:
- Interactive Medicine – which allows patients and physicians to communicate in real-time while maintaining HIPAA compliance, usually done through an app that allows for video chat.
- Store and Forward – which permits providers to share patient information with a practitioner in another location.
- Remote Patient Monitoring – which allows remote caregivers to monitor patients that reside at home by using mobile medical devices to collect data (e.g. blood sugar or blood pressure)
Telemedicine vs Telehealth
The terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are often used interchangeably. This isn’t surprising since the telehealth and telemedicine definitions encompass very similar services.
These mobile health services include: medical education, e-health patient monitoring, patient consultation via video chat, wireless health applications, medical report transmissions, and many more.
Telemedicine is actually a subset of telehealth.
Whereas telehealth is a broad term that includes all health services provided using telecommunications, telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services.
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 including diagnosis and prescription.
For both telemedicine and telehealth, the use of secure video and audio connections makes it possible for specialists to treat patients who reside in locations with limited access to care or simply to help with convenience.
Because of telemedicine, patients who previously had limited access to health care services can now see a physician without leaving their home.
Seniors who would prefer to age in place can now do so with the use of medical streaming devices.
The spread of disease is reduced as individuals with contagious diseases don’t have to expose it to others in crowded waiting rooms.
The benefits of telemedicine also include:
- Less time away from work
- No travel expenses or time
- Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
- No exposure to other potentially contagious patients
- Decreased Cost: Telemedicine apps can offer healthcare services at a lower cost, even without insurance.
- Follow-up visits
- Remote chronic disease management
- Remote post-hospitalization care
- Preventative care support
- After-hours medical issues
- Some of the areas where telemedicine can help include:
- Arthritic Pain
- Colds and Flu
- Insect Bites
- Respiratory Infections
- Skin Inflammations
- Sore Throats
- Sprains & Strains
- Bladder Infections
- Sports Injuries
Telemedicine services can range widely by specialty.
Surgeons can use telemedicine to do post-operation check-ins with patients, to make sure their wound is not infected.
A gynecologist might use a live telemedicine solution to provide birth control counseling.
An endocrinologist may do live video chats with patients to discuss recent lab results and answer questions.
A family doctor can video chat with a parent and child to determine treatment for an illness.
What Does Telemedicine Cost?
Below are the costs for common reasons to see your doctor or local urgent care center. Telemedicine apps vary in cost, but some telemedicine apps offer monthly fees for as little as $25/month.