Telemedicine is a relatively new approach in healthcare. Its advantages are numerous in terms of reducing costs, resources, travel times and providing satisfaction for patients, clinicians and healthcare staff. This article will look at 5 key reasons to develop telemedicine. Telemedicine can include the use of software applications, involving mobile health, or iPads/computers for teleconferencing or videoconferencing so as to help with diagnosis, monitoring, treatment and medication. Telemedicine is highly effective for providing remote healthcare. The future of telemedicine predicts that it will be a growing area of business. Doctors, hospitals, healthcare providers and consumers are on board with the telemedicine applications and solutions, and there is a huge demand for medical software, medical/healthcare platforms, interfaces and wearables.
1. Successful Apps Have the Potential to Scale Quickly and Be Profitable
According to an article by Jessica Kim Cohen, telemedicine apps cost approximately $425 to develop. They can take just over a year to develop. As the article by Norra MacReady states, telemedicine usage by physicians tends to vary according to their speciality. Once telemedicine applications have been tested and their success has been rolled out to one medical department, the tendency is for this to be scaled up to:
- other departments in the same hospital;
- other hospitals in the nearby vicinity;
- other collaborative hospitals globally.
Telemedicine has the potential to really spread and be used by so many clinicians and patients. For example, according to NEJM Catalyst, in New York 50 telehealth programs were scaled in 2017, which means that these programmes had been used for 100,000 patients by the end of 2018, and there was a goal to reach 250,000 of them in 2019, which shows how big the impact of telemedicine can be.
2. It Helps to Get Healthcare to Remote and Rural Populations
The research conducted by Marianne St. Clair et al in 2019 has shown that telemedicine is starting to be used in remote and rural populations in Australia, especially with indigenous populations. It is an effective way for patients, clinicians and healthcare staff for several reasons:
- no need to travel great distances;
- time saving;
- financial costs saving.
It can mean that high-end satellites need to be used to provide adequate broadband access to communities. It allows doctors and patients who are miles apart to have face-to-face communication via video conferencing, and it can help in many ways:
- patient examinations, treatment and diagnosis;
- assistance with clinical decision making.
With the help of telemedicine people feel more confident about seeing a doctor in comfort of their home.
3. Telemedicine Makes People Accountable to Participate in Their Own Health Monitoring – It Is Faster/More Accurate/Real-Time and Efficient
With the creation of various software applications for mobile phones, iPads, computers, watches, various wearables, bracelets etc it can make health and fitness monitoring faster, more accurate, real-time and hugely efficient. It can make health information easier to analyse.
Telemedicine can monitor various things:
- patients’ physical activities so as to make them somewhat accountable to take responsibility for improving their fitness;
- sedentary behaviour with reminders and alerts;
- whether health/fitness targets have been met or not.
When people are more active this can prevent cardio-vascular disease, obesity, musculoskeletal pain, weight-gain, diabetes, etc. Therefore, developing telemedicine applications can greatly improve the nation’s health and reduce the risk of disease, thus saving healthcare system money. Dr Yasmin Van Kasteren from Flinders University has specifically researched how physically active people are in the workplace.
Another research by Jill Freyne et al has shown how telemedicine can assist people to comply with their postoperative exercises, where they need to exercise to regain mobility, for example after knee replacement surgery in order to successfully recover. By using software apps, this encourages patients to keep on track with their rehabilitation. When patients are engaged they monitor:
- own physical exercises;
- range of motion and activities;
- pain level.
In addition to this, telemedicine provides access to a digital coach and a personalised physiotherapist. It makes the patient committed and accountable for their own recovery as well as ensures compliance with the exercises recommended by medical staff.
4. Reduces Hospital Waiting Times and Emergency Department Presentations
A research by Owen Sun et al has shown that when clinicians use voice-activated conversational interfaces for reporting, this keeps patients safer and there are less risk incidents. Using natural speech is more intuitive, and by having voice-activated digital technology this avoids any issues of people struggling to read handwriting and improves quality.
Another study by Patel et al has shown that when telemedicine is used by a neurology department, it brings many benefits to patients:
- significant reduction of waiting times, providing those patients who live in rural areas with a face-to-face contact with a neurologist without having to travel;
- health and life quality improvement for patients who have had strokes, suffer from epilepsy or children with mental health issues.
The research by J D Meyer et al has shown that similarly tele-psychiatry can help people living in rural or remote areas get access to the health care they need quickly. This supplies solutions to various problems:
- reduce pressure on emergency department presentations;
- allow for assessment;
- help with children, adolescents and adults;
- allow physicians to consult and collaborate with one another to share and check opinions.
Research by Dr. Amina Tariq examined how a telehealth portal was used for pre-admissions, which allowed consultations to take place via computers, tablets and mobile phones with scheduled video communication and thus cut down on travel costs. This way was far more convenient and comfortable for patients and their families, which was a real benefit. The research showed that patients and clinicians were ready and able to use this, but in order to implement it, training, support and awareness raising was required.
5. Telemedicine Can Aid Communication
Telemedicine can aid communication in different ways. We have already looked at how it can help doctors/nurses to communicate with people in remote and rural settings, such as vulnerable indigenous populations.
Research by David Ireland et al has shown that by developing telemedicine chat-bots, using artificial intelligence (AI) and augmentative alternative communication (AAC) is a way of using technology to help autistic children interact with software that uses natural language processing. It can encourage children with autism to become engaged, work with occupational therapists and develop speech.
Another study by Shelley Roberts has looked at how bedside technology can help patients participate in monitoring their nutrition whilst in hospital. This research shows that this technology has several advantages:
- a better communication between patients and medical staff about what they have consumed;
- often patients struggle to remember correctly what they have eaten over the past 24 hours, but having this as a part of their Personal Entertainment System (PES) makes it easy for them to give feedback;
All these things are aimed at avoiding malnutrition, dietary risks and mortality and giving a clear 24-hour diet history that is easy to assess and analyse.
Finally, El-Miedany’s research has shown that regarding communication, telemedicine apps can make it much easier for patients’ health information to be shared (with their consent), which means that doctors have access to the patient’s full history with electronic health records (EHRs). This makes for healthcare that is ‘continuous’ and personalised as well as being accessible from anywhere providing sufficient security protocols are put in place for privacy.
In conclusion, telemedicine development has the ability to revolutionise the healthcare industry and make significant improvements to patients’ lives and the working conditions of healthcare staff in many ways:
- reduction of number of errors;
- monitoring improvement;
- waiting times reduction;
- allow patients to see doctors faster regardless of their place of living.
All things considered, telemedicine makes a real difference to those who can access healthcare in a positive way.