by Carrie Abramson
Over the past few years, the medical world has made significant strides in the adoption of technology. The biggest trend to emerge from healthcare’s digital advances is telemedicine. Telemedicine is defined as the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology. Simply put, it’s the use of technology to connect patients with physicians or other health care providers outside of a traditional office visit. The following are the distinct advantages that telemedicine provides to the modern medical community.
Increases Access to Healthcare
People who live in rural areas face unique challenges when it comes to obtaining healthcare that those who live in urban areas don’t necessarily experience. First, electronic communication gives rural patients the ability to stay local and avoid long drives to major cities for specialty services. Next, telemedicine offers an avenue for specialists and other healthcare providers to grow the number of patients they can reach, diagnose and treat. With specialists treating patients electronically, rural hospitals are able to provide a wider variety of specialty services including stroke, trauma, intensive care services, and more. In addition to improving healthcare access in rural areas, telemedicine can also be applied in post-disaster situations to provide emergency care to those who need it. The American Telemedicine Association also states, “Given the provider shortages throughout the world–in both rural and urban areas–telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase service to millions of new patients”.
Improves Health Outcomes
Easily accessible healthcare through the use of telemedicine allows patients to be diagnosed and treated earlier which significantly improves the patient’s health outcome. Early diagnosis and treatment may also mean less expensive treatments could be provided to patients. Reduced mortality rates, reduced complications and reduced hospital stays have been reported among patients who were treated in telemedicine supported intensive care units. Studies have shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered by telemedicine are just as effective as traditional in-person consultations, and in some fields telemedicine provides more superior outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Reduces Healthcare and Other Costs
The cost efficiency of telemedicine is not something that should be overlooked and is one of the most important reasons many support the adoption of telemedicine. Telemedicine decreases the cost of healthcare though the better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and shorter hospital stays. When specialists assist local healthcare providers, disease management is improved for the patient resulting in less complications and hospitalizations. At home monitoring keeps unnecessary hospital visits and transportation costs at bay while also avoiding high cost patient transfers to hospitals. Lastly, patients who would normally be traveling to an urban area for treatment are able to avoid a decreased income if they would have had to miss work.
References: American Telemedicine Association; U.S. News and World Report.