The New Healthcare: Telemedicine
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The New Healthcare: Telemedicine

Telemedicine is also called telecare, telehealth, or e-health and many such names refer to healthcare facilities such as consultations and exams being provided remotely. Telemedicine is a convenient way to provide evaluations, diagnostics, and treatment to patients without the actual need for personal consultations.

The use of technology has made communication possible for physicians and patients with the help of laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.

Telemedicine is mainly made up of three categories:

  • Real-Time Interactive Medicine: Physicians can provide instant medical advice for patients through the use of phone calls, online calls, or home visits if needed. Patients can consult about medical history and present symptoms they have. In addition, physicians can do evaluations of their patient’s conditions just as similarly as face-to-face consultation.
  • Store and Forward: Store and Forward Telemedicine is a method where medical care providers can share medical information such as lab reports, imaging studies, and other records with a physician or any other medical specialist who might be situated at different locations. In this way, patients can access a whole team of healthcare providers at different locations.
  • Remote Monitoring: Also called telemonitoring, is a method where physicians can monitor their patient’s vital signals the patients such as temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc. This method is beneficial for patients at a higher risk, like patients with heart conditions, diabetic patients, patients who have just been released from the hospital, or elderly patients.

The Merits and Demerits of Telemedicine

Merits of Telemedicine:

  • Accessible and Convenient Patient Care: Ever since the rise of telemedicine, patients have had access to physicians especially, those who cannot take time off from work, who are homebound, or live in distant locations. Using real-time telemedicine helps patients access extended physician and healthcare facilities.
  • Cost and Healthcare Saving: Remote monitoring, analysis, and data being stored electronically have reduced the cost of medical facilities, which help in saving patients’ money that would otherwise be spent when taking the option of face-to-face consultations. It also saves insurance companies a lot of trouble by framing better insurance plans that also cover telemedicine costs.
  • Better Quality of Patient Care: The quality of patient care is critical, and telemedicine provides a patient-focused approach such as giving real-time consultations and learning about their conditions within minutes and just like in a face-to-face consultation.
  • Better Patient Engagement: Telemedicine helps physicians engage their patients to maintain their appointment schedules. Virtual visits from physicians help in being involved in patients’ care. Physicians being within the reach help question or report early symptoms and make follow-up appointments. Better engagement of patients can also reduce tobacco use and obesity in patients by helping them make healthy choices in lifestyle.
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Demerits of Telemedicine:

  • Reduced Continuity in Care: In many cases, patients consulting with a random physician or healthcare provider using real-time telemedicine can reduce continuity in care. It may happen due to the physician’s inability to find records from other healthcare providers, resulting in an incomplete record of medical history.
  • Technical Training and Equipment for Telemedicine: Telemedicine heavily relies on technology. Reframing I.T. staff duties and investing in new equipment takes a lot of money and time. Likewise, using a new system requires training many physicians, patients, and other medical staff to be trained, which will also result in a long time in the adoption of telemedicine services.
  • Behavioral Challenges: Many physicians and patients will not be ready to give up conventional ways of healthcare practices. It may be due to a lack of familiarity with technology. In addition, many older patients are reluctant towards the use of technology. As a result, Healthcare techniques like telemedicine will see less adoption by physicians and patients alike.
  • Possibility of Criminal Activity: There is also a major concern about healthcare fraud in the telemedicine industry. Patients and even physicians can be victimized in many ways. E.g., institutional providers not listed or eligible may make fraudulent claims for payments, or a patient’s name and bank account details may be used for making false insurance claims.

Recent Developments in Telemedicine Industry

  • In November 2020, Morneau Shepell, a key player of technology-driven H.R. services which mainly focuses on mental health services through digital methods, launched a unified telemedicine solution in the United States.
  • In December 2020, Royal Philips merged with BioTelemetry, intending to provide digital healthcare services to patients with heart conditions who have just been released and provide diagnostics in real-time.
  • In March 2021, AMD Global integrated with PointClickCare with the intention of providing better long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) technology, which will enable physicians to collect data and decrease errors in data entry.
  • In April 2021, Kry, a Swedish digital health startup to offer telemedicine services after raising US$312 million. Currently, 6000 medical clinics use its software and platform.
  • In May 2021, MediTelecare announced the launch of MediTely, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) mobile telemedicine service aimed at providing healthcare services to old patients living independently.
  • In July 2021, Estshara, a Cairo-based digital health firm, raised $500,000. The company provides telemedicine consultations and telepharmacy services to around 2 million active users and has provided two hundred thousand consultations.
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Conclusion

The telemedicine market is growing at a fast rate. According to Astute Analytica, the global telemedicine market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.4% during the forecast years from 2021 to 2027. Telemedicine is quickly becoming a mainstream and standard method of providing healthcare globally because of continued innovations and insurance policies to support telemedicine and increase patient’s access to quality healthcare facilities.

The Covid-19 pandemic also had a major role in the perception of telemedicine as a mainstream healthcare solution. The pandemic caused a sudden rise in infected patients in hospitals, causing huge stress on healthcare employees. On the other hand, the canceling and postponing appointments and surgeries for non-essential conditions due to the prioritization of Covid-19 infected patients caused a lower number of overall patients.

Telemedicine proved to be a useful solution during the pandemic, which provided ways for talking about health issues using digital technology. Furthermore, the cost of telemedicine consulting is low, and medical professionals have become less stressed.

The New Healthcare: Telemedicine