We live in the Digital Age. Digital technology has practically taken over all aspects of our lives.
We depend on technology for almost everything from how we communicate to making decisions about our day to day activities. It is therefore not surprising that technology is now changing how we approach our health.
Telehealth technology is on the rise within the healthcare industry throughout the world and especially here in the US. It is poised to have a big impact on the way patients interact with health care service providers and how to receive health care services.
What is telehealth technology?
HealthIT (health information technology) includes any technology that is used to share, analyze or store health information. This technology includes online patient portals and health practice management systems.
Telehealth which is also known as telemedicine includes a series of HealthIT technologies that are specifically used to provide health education, clinical care or information remotely. This includes both hardware and software.
Telehealth technologies are on the rise. According to a recent report by Research and Markets, the telehealth industry in the US is expected to see an annual growth rate of almost 30% per year from now until 2021. The report predicts that telehealth will soon become the mainstream option for accessing health care services.
Why health care service providers love telehealth technology
Over two-thirds of Americans are using smartphones to access information as well as to carry out various day to day tasks. The healthcare industry isn’t been left behind.
Many telehealth solutions have been designed for use on computers or smartphones. Many only require a reliable internet connection to allow patients to access their service providers.
Various service providers are adopting telehealth for the reasons outlined below:
Telehealth has increased hospitals’ geographic reach: Healthcare providers can now cross state lines to provide services to patients where they are located. They are therefore able to expand their patient base without worrying about geographical distances.
Telehealth is more efficient: Health care professionals can see more patients in less time. This boosts their efficiency and revenue.
Telehealth providers better patient monitoring: Health service providers are better able to monitor patients. Patients don’t have to come in to the practice for monitoring. The data is made available to the health care professionals no matter where the patient is. This improves patient health outcomes, especially when monitoring chronic conditions.
Telehealth provides Improved patient satisfaction: Health care providers can provide more efficient services to their patients therefore ensuring greater satisfaction amongst patients. They will therefore have greater patient retention.
Benefits of telehealth technology to patients
It isn’t healthcare service providers alone who are benefiting from telehealth technologies. According to Digital Authority Partners, more patients are seeking out healthcare service providers that have incorporated telehealth technology into their practice. This isn’t surprising considering the many benefits of telehealth technology to patients.
Less travel time and lower costs: Patients don’t have to travel to a health facility to access a health professional. They can have a consultation from wherever they are. They also don’t have to keep going to the health facility for monitoring. This saves them a lot of time and money.
Reduced exposure to contagious illnesses: Patients don’t have to be exposed to contagious illnesses as they don’t have to go into healthcare facilities. This is especially important for those with compromised immune systems.
Less time off work: Patients don’t have to keep asking for time off work in order to make their appointments with health professionals. They can schedule appointments for lunch time for example and be able to honor the appointment without it affecting their work.
It’s easier to manage on-going conditions: Patients find it easier to manage on-going conditions when their healthcare service provider can monitor them remotely. Patients feel more in charge of their health and can refer to health professionals with questions quickly and more conveniently.
Telehealth solutions have become so popular not only among patients but doctors as well.
In a recent podcast, Simon Stertzer, a pioneer in cardiovascular surgery in the US, has talked about the benefits of telehealth options, and particularly the positive impact on improving health outcomes and patients’ satisfaction with health organizations.
Types of telehealth solutions
While there are various telehealth technologies available in the market, they can be grouped into three main categories:
Remote patient monitoring technologies: Also known as self-testing or self-monitoring, these technologies are used to monitor the health of patients remotely. They help gather clinical information remotely and help lower the costs of frequent monitoring at health facilities.
They are often used in the treatment and management of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes and many more.
Real time communication technology: These are used to connect patients to their healthcare providers via video or audio enable devices. Patients can establish communication with specialists who may not be geographically accessible for example. These sessions function just as a face-to-face consultation would.
Store and forward: This refers to technologies used for the transmission of information from one service provider to another. For example, radiologists may analyze an x-ray and send the digital x-ray images and their analysis to the doctor for interpretation.
Practical examples of how telemedicine is transforming healthcare
Telemedicine is transforming the delivery of healthcare in the US and all over the world. The following are some examples of telehealth technology in practice.
Remote monitoring of patients: The ability to monitor patients remotely ensures that medical conditions are identified early. This has been shown to greatly improve stroke treatments. Patients on the telestroke network in Georgia for example were able to receive treatment 20 minutes faster than those outside the network.
Better care for patients: Patients are monitored by more people. Health care professionals have a second set of eyes watching to ensure that nothing is missed. The Tele-ICU at a Phoenix hospital for example ensures better care for patients.
Empowering patients: Patients can take their health into their own hands with telehealth technology. This is especially effective for the management of long-term chronic health conditions like hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
Patients can be reminded to take blood pressure medications, attend appointments and refill prescriptions. They have faster access to physicians and can get more information about their conditions from educational programs provided by healthcare service providers.
Telehealth technologies are set to take over the healthcare industry. If you’re a healthcare service provider, ensure that you have plans to integrate these technologies for better service delivery.