What is Telemedicine? A Physicians Guide.
Over the last decade, physicians have begun implementing telemedicine to treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology.
This new approach is becoming an increasingly important part of the American healthcare infrastructure, giving patients added convenience of virtual doctor visits, a boost in their care outcomes, and many other added benefits.The word “Telemedicine” refers to the delivery of healthcare at a distance, such as health assessments or consultations, and encompasses a broad range of services and technologies so patients can remotely seek medical attention, making it easier to maintain their health and productivity levels.
Initially developed by health professionals to reach remote patients living in the rural areas, Telemedicine enables healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using common technology, such as video conferencing and smartphones, without the need for an in-person visit. Over time, this concept reached urban populations with healthcare shortages, and to respond to medical emergencies by sharing medical consults and patient health records without delay.
What is Real-Time Telemedicine?
Real-time telemedicine is when patients and providers use video conferencing to see and hear each other, in lieu of a trip to a doctor’s office for certain situations. This means patients are able to meet with their doctor without having to be physically present. Real-time telemedicine helps to improve a patient’s health by permitting a two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or practitioner at the distant site. It is popular for primary care, urgent care, follow-up visits, and the management of medications and chronic illness.
People are busy and don’t want to take time out of their day to drive to a doctor or therapist’s office unless they absolutely have to, so this technological advancement is long overdue for some. These virtual doctor visits deliver a convenient way for patients to see their physician without having the hassle of drive time, finding childcare for their kids, or having to take time off from work.
Telemedicine not only refers to real-time medical consultations over video, it also includes store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring.
What is Store-and-Forward Telemedicine?
Sometimes called asynchronous telemedicine, store-and-forward telemedicine ensures safety, the ability to store necessary medical records, and connectivity. It enables healthcare providers to forward and share patient medical data with a provider at a different location. This data can include lab results, images, videos, and records. The information is stored in a sophisticated, secure, email platform.The privacy of the patient is kept intact as it is shared online. This ensures safety, the ability to store necessary medical records, and connectivity. In an emergency, a personal health record can quickly give emergency personnel vital information, such as current diagnoses, medications, drug allergies and your doctor’s contact information.
What is Remote Patient Monitoring?
Telemedicine monitoring is ideal for doctors or health care teams to pay close attention to those at home with chronic disease and for elderly patients. Utilizing their mobile medical devices that collect blood sugar levels, blood pressure or other vital signs, makes it possible for remote caregivers to review the collected data instantly. With the recent growth of wearables and mobile medical devices, this is getting easier for patients to have the right tracking tools at home in order for them to provide accurate results to the healthcare provider. A variety of technologies include:
- Web-based or mobile apps for uploading information, such as blood glucose readings, to your doctor or health care team.
- Devices that measure and wirelessly transmit information, such as blood pressure, blood glucose or lung function.
- Wearable devices that automatically record and transmit information, such as heart rate, blood glucose, gait, posture control, tremors, physical activity or sleep patterns.
- Home monitoring devices for older people or people with dementia that detect changes in normal activities such as falls
Remote patient monitoring makes it easier for patients and physicians to maintain close communication, while recording and transmitting a patient’s medical data automatically, generating a regular report for the physician. In some cases, this medical data is transmitted to a team of health monitoring professionals who are responsible for flagging any warning signs and sending them on to the physician.
What Equipment is Needed for Real-Time Telemedicine?
All that is needed is a compatible device, internet connection, a microphone, and a webcam. This electronic communication means the use of interactive telecommunications equipment that includes, at a minimum, audio and video equipment.
How Can this Technology be Beneficial to your Patients?
Virtual consultations allow primary care doctors to get input from specialists when they have questions about a diagnosis or treatment. The primary care doctor sends exam notes, history, test results, X-rays or other images to the specialist to review. The specialist may respond electronically, conduct a virtual appointment, or request a face-to-face meeting. Virtual consultations may prevent unnecessary in-person referrals to a specialist, reduce wait times for specialist input and eliminate unnecessary travel.
What are the Telemedicine Licensing Requirements for Each State?
If you are considering becoming a telemedicine provider, the more states you are licensed to practice in, the better. Obtaining your telemedicine license in multiple states can make you a more versatile physician with access to more competitive job opportunities with a higher salary or hourly rate potential. While some telemedicine companies will assist you during the licensing process, it’s important to understand the steps you will need to take for each state in order to make yourself more valuable in the telemedicine job market.
Each state has a licensing board with their own set of telemedicine license requirements. This can be as simple as providing documentation or as time-intensive as writing essays, taking tests, and conducting interviews in-person. Although the varying processes can be confusing, getting your telemedicine license in multiple states will pay off in the long run both professionally and for your patients.