Telehealth is a popular word in the health and wellness space of late, as more and more patients and providers adopt digital technologies to facilitate connection and communication. However, telehealth is not a single healthcare service; rather, it is a potential revolution in how health services are accessed by patients around the world.
You might think of telehealth as video-chatting with a healthcare provider, and while this is one of the more prevalent applications of the tech, it is far from the only potential change telehealth can make in the healthcare industry. Here is an exploration of different types of telehealth services and why they matter to patients and providers alike.
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Live Video Conferencing Between Patients and Providers
Undoubtedly, the most well-known telehealth service is that of online doctor visits, in which patients can connect with healthcare providers through internet-connected computers, tablets or smartphones. Almost all telehealth conferences make use of video, so that providers can visually assess their patients and that patients can develop more trust in their healthcare providers; however, some telehealth solutions also support audio-only appointments or even text-based conversations between providers and patients.
The benefits of video conferencing are myriad. For patients, telehealth appointments are much more convenient in that they can take place anywhere; no longer do patients need to travel to hospitals or doctor’s offices to receive basic healthcare. For providers, telehealth cuts costs, as they can practice medicine without the need for extensive offices and medical supplies. Though there are limits to the services providers can offer via telehealth conferences, video appointments will likely take the place of checkups, follow-ups, basic urgent care and other types of healthcare visits that do not require hands-on care.
Store-and-Forward Video Between Providers
When a patient’s case is complex, providers will often consult with one another to ensure that their patient is receiving the best possible diagnoses and treatment. Especially when a provider is working with a patient with a health condition that is beyond their realm of specialization, sending information about a case to a more experienced provider is a good way to ensure that they are making the best decisions to promote health and wellbeing within their patient.
Store-and-forward video, also called asynchronous video, is an effective telehealth service to facilitate communication amongst healthcare providers. A provider utilizing this solution will record themselves explaining the details of a patient’s case and send it along to another provider over a secure network. The second provider can engage with the video when they have time and respond in kind or connect directly with the first provider to share insights.
Remote Patient Monitoring by Providers
Often, providers need to collect more information about patient health during the course of a patient’s typical day. In the past, the only way to do this was through patient self-reporting, which is often fraught with errors. To gain more accurate data with which to guide their decision-making, providers can equip their patients with remote monitoring tools, which will collect specific information about their health as they engage with their lives as normal. These tools might measure heart rate, blood sugar, activity level, neurological impulses and more. Then, the tools connect to the internet and send the data directly to providers, who enjoy real-time insights into patient health. With remote monitoring capabilities, providers can radically improve the impact of their treatment plans, resulting in better patient outcomes.
Mobile Health Opportunities for Patients and Providers
More than 80 percent of the United States is considered to be a healthcare desert, where it takes patients more than an hour to access basic medical services. What’s more, roughly 19 million Americans lack access to internet services, and almost a quarter of rural populations have no way to connect to the internet to utilize video conferencing.
Fortunately, the final type of telehealth service currently available is that of mobile health. Without physically visiting remote rural towns, healthcare providers can reach these parts of the country by setting up mobile healthcare centers. Patients eager to receive healthcare can travel to these centers and connect with providers through the internet. Though these centers are not permanent, they could be essential in bringing health and wellness to areas in need.
The popularity of telehealth is growing, which means patients and providers alike could see new and innovative telehealth solutions emerging in the coming years. The sooner we become comfortable with telehealth, the sooner we can benefit from advanced technology in healthcare.