Telehealth - A Stepping Stone to a Better Future

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Telehealth is in the process of revolutionizing how we perceive our treatment options with the help of one simple network that binds us all: The Internet.

Healthcare has seen relentless advancement in the past few decades. The industry has been emphasizing on technological innovations to provide a better experience for patients. These innovations have found a niche for themselves in almost every process from patient registration, lab procedure & surgeries to data monitoring and self-care. The modern technology employed today has changed practically everything about medicine. For example, the average human lifespan sixty years ago was 68.2 years whereas in current times it has increased to 78.6 years. This mere statistic does not do justice to the humongous gamut of growth the healthcare industry continues to demonstrate even today.

We have modernized the way we watch television, pay our bills as well as involve ourselves in social activities.  Telehealth is one such advanced innovation in the field of healthcare that is doing the rounds across several countries. It envelopes a wide range of technologies within to present the feasibility of virtual medical consultation. In this blog, we will touch upon various folds of this incredible yet cost-effective healthcare proposition.

Telehealth: The concept

The world is going digital. Why should healthcare be left behind? The digital future of healthcare, Telehealth, also referred to as e-health and mobile health, is an innovative system of healthcare service that makes use of the power of telecommunications and advanced information technology to reach those in remote areas and far-off countries. Telehealth is predominantly used for medical assistance and education purposes. Computer devices, videoconferencing systems, mobile devices, store and forward transfers, remote monitoring devices etc. are some of the modern technology that aid in successful virtual diagnosis, treatment, and education. It is often confused with the term ‘Telemedicine’ which delivers traditional clinical treatments through technology. On the other hand, Telehealth has a wider scope of both clinical and non-clinical services such as health education, administrative communications, and data management.

The concept of Telehealth was discovered in the 20th century. But, it spread its wings only in the past five to ten years. So, what are the reasons that make Telehealth an accessible choice in healthcare? Telehealth has provided a window towards the world of operational excellence in healthcare building a bridge between doctors and patients separated by geographical barriers. Patients don’t need to map their way towards a clinic. It saves the time you spend in travel whilst you enjoy the benefits of affordably-priced medical treatments. In fact, it has liberated medical practitioners from traditional medical perceptions and approaches. Patients can undergo treatment virtually from a doctor of their choice. All you need is an internet connection through which you can communicate with the doctors.

Some examples of Telehealth services are:

  • Counselling
  • Checking vital signs like blood pressure
  • E-visits (where the patient can communicate with the doctors remotely with the help of audio or video conferencing)
  • Online Support Groups specific to health
  • Self-management tools
  • E-health records
  • Dentist appointments
  • Education and Awareness programs

Telehealth applications facilitate the life of patients. At the same time, it also provides healthcare providers such as doctors to establish their practice individually alongside their association with bigger healthcare facilities.

Advantages and disadvantages of Telehealth:

The primary objective of Telehealth is providing improved access and convenience in every aspect of medicine through digital healthcare. This could start from patient registration and diagnosis up to treatment, post-op, and regular check-ups. Although there are several positives of accommodating Telehealth into our healthcare cycles, there are some disadvantages that cannot be sidelined.

Besides the convenience that comes with virtual treatment, some of the other advantages of Telehealth are:

  • It could save a person in life-threatening situations. There have been cases where patient deceased due to non-availability of medical experts at the hospital. In the case of Telehealth, expert advice on treatment is instantaneously available.
  • Proper healthcare services are still deficit in several rural areas. Telehealth will bridge the gap between rural and urban centres. This holds good even for those living in inaccessible and isolated areas.
  • Patient-monitoring gadgets have been introduced through Telehealth services. This reduces the number of visits to the clinic. Ambulance services can be avoided as well.
  • Telehealth can provide relevant healthcare education to those who might not be aware of the latest technological advancements, procedures, and precautionary measures.
  • Telehealth is cost-effective. The consultation charges are comparatively lower than conventional methods. In addition, travelling expenses are cut down. All this while you are saving a lot of time.

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages such as:

  • Consultation costs are low but setting-up the telecommunication system setup to improve digital health can be considerably expensive.
  • No matter how advanced, technology does come with its set of glitches. There are various factors such as a power cut or a poor network signal that could disrupt continuous connection.
  • There is no tactile interaction. Clinical examination is still the key for making many diagnoses and without it incorrect diagnosis could be made.
  • Data protection is an issue. Any fault in the system can leak patients’ health records and confidential information can be easily accessed by hackers if the system is not protected completely.
  • As huge data uploads and downloads are linked via Telehealth. X-rays, clinical progress reports etc. are sometimes maintained in low quality which could lead to inaccuracies in treatments.

Telehealth has the potential to provide solutions to problems that the healthcare industry currently faces. Being a relatively new concept, it is not readily welcomed by patients who are satisfied only on visiting their doctors in person. Considering the rapidly growing face of technology, it is only a matter of time until the whole process of medical treatments will be taken up virtually. It won’t be much of a surprise then, will it?

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