Telemedicine

Abstract

Telemedicine remains a crucial technological approach in the healthcare sector due to improved care for the patients. The interaction between a patient and a healthcare provider virtually through videoconferencing, wireless technology, and other approaches enhances care outcomes. The real-time provision of healthcare has gone a long way in ensuring that the patient’s needs and welfare are met and safeguarded by healthcare providers. Telemedicine incorporates the teleconsultation, telementoring, and telemonitoring components. The quest for real-time services and the need to reduce the cost of accessing healthcare services are crucial determinants for telemedicine. Aspects such as time frame for acquiring services, satisfaction questionnaires, and the number of teleconsultations carried out measures the effectiveness of the technology. Telemedicine offers real-time services to patients and thus improved the quality of services provided to patients.

Components of the Telemedicine Technology

Teleconsultation

It is one of the standard and broadly used telemedicine category across the world. It entails an interaction between a service provider and the patient virtually for the provision of diagnosis and therapeutic advice. For example, a healthcare professional can engage a videoconferencing technology to engage with a patient. The process aims at allowing patients access care services despite their geographical locations and the distance from the healthcare providers. As Deldar, Bahaadinbeigy, and Tara (2016) state, the goal of teleconsultation is to omit geographical and functional distance. The effective establishment of this approach enhances healthcare outcomes due to prompt access to appropriate medical information, enhanced trust, correct diagnosis, and treatment. An example of a situation that would call for the integration of the teleconsultation approach is the emergence of a pandemic. During such a time, patients may develop anxiety and uncertainty and thus fail to visit healthcare centers. Notably, hospitals and care centers are likely to experience exponential services demand leading to insufficient capacity to provide adequate treatment. Thus, teleconsultation becomes an excellent way to assess suspected cases and provide quality diagnosis and treatment. This has the potential to reduce disease transmission during a pandemic. Overall, teleconsultation helps to cover geographical and functional distances in efforts to deliver quality care and attention services to all patients.

Telementoring

This component entails an interaction between healthcare providers for mentorship purposes. For instance, one medical practitioner acquires mentorship from another to establish specialized ways of helping a patient. The process allows care providers to sharpen their skills and knowledge and thus assist the patient in countering a condition. For example, a doctor handling a diabetic patient in the rural area may seek the assistance of a professional for mentorship assistance through the online platform. The telementoring process enhances healthcare outcomes since a healthcare professional is in a better place to incorporate potential solutions for addressing a medical issue at hand. It operates similarly with on-site mentoring. A study by Erridge et al. (2019) shows that telementoring has similar safety and efficacy as that of on-site mentoring. It guarantees effective delivery of services to patients in need and an overall improvement in healthcare outcomes. Thus, telemonitoring remains a crucial component of telemedicine technology.

Telemonitoring

Telemonitoring incorporates the acquisition of data by healthcare providers via distinct biosensor systems. The automated process ensures the effective transfer of a patient’s health status from the home to a particular healthcare facility. It provides patients and care professionals with regular measurements of various healthcare parameters to acquire insights about the patient’s conditions (Hanley et al., 2018). Some of the common systems utilized include electronic scales, vital-sign monitor, and a glucometer. These devices are useful in monitoring bio-parameters. For example, a doctor can receive data from a patient at home and utilize the acquired information to offer an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. One of the key benefits of this process is that it allows healthcare providers to monitor patients without them having to travel to the healthcare facility.

Factors Contributing to the Use of Telemedicine

Need for Real-time Care Providers

The dire need for real-time care providers exists as one of the crucial factors that prompt the use of telemedicine technology. Accessible healthcare remains one of the forces behind the growth of telemedicine (Palozz, Schettini & Chirico, 2020). It ensures that patients can access care services during their point of need. For example, individuals living in remote areas benefit from telemedicine. Notably, despite their busy schedules, people can still access vital healthcare services. The provision of real-time services has gone a long way towards improving people’s health and well-being.  The call for reduced healthcare costs supports the use of telemedicine.

Lowering Healthcare Costs

The need to lower down healthcare costs has extensively supported the use of telemedicine. A large segment of the global population suffers from increased costs of accessing services that affect their ability to acquire quality care and attention services. For example, most of the individuals living in low-income segments have minimum resources that leave them unable to cater for their daily needs. The integration of telemedicine technology cuts down the cost of acquiring services. A patient can receive primary care via systems such as videoconferencing and wireless technologies and reduce expensive and unnecessary emergency room visits.

Measuring Telemedicine Impact

Assessing time between provider request and receipt of consultation

One of the significant ways of measuring the effectiveness of telemedicine is the examination of the time between the request for a consult and the receipt of consultation. Patients reach out to a care provider to acquire vital assistance. The time taken between the placement of the request and the receipt of the required services informs the success of this key approach. For example, if a patient needs quick attention, but the service provider is unavailable, then the technology fails to meet their needs and concerns.  The increased time frame between the scheduled time and the teleconsultation is an indication of the ineffectiveness associated with the technology. Also, the number of teleconsultations in a given period highlights the impact of this technology.

The number of teleconsultations carried out in a given period

The number of patients reaching out and receiving quality services through telemedicine is an indicator of the level of services supported by the system.  The more the number of patients acquiring healthcare services and obtaining improved healthcare services is an indication of successful engagement with the technology. The number of teleconsultations goes in handy with specialists offering distinct services. An increase in the number of specialists per offering unit highlights the ability of the technology to meet the needs of the patients. Lastly, satisfaction questionnaires can also measure effectiveness.

Satisfaction Questionnaires

Patient satisfaction questionnaires can measure the effectiveness level of telemedicine. It acts as a prediction of their likelihood of continuing the use of available healthcare, medical instruction, and the effectiveness of care (Al-Abri & Al-Balushi, 2014). Providing patients with questionnaires to provide information linked to the extent of care they received can enable the detection of the level of success associated with this technology. Lower satisfaction levels highlight the provision of poor services, while higher satisfaction communicates the integration of excellent care and attention services.

Conclusion

Telemedicine continues being one of the critical technologies supporting the provision of quality and convenient services to patients across the world. It enables a patient and the care provider to connect virtually for appropriate guidance. Live video and still images capture and saved on a device for reference are common approaches utilized in telemedicine. It remains an integral method, especially during modern times, when the healthcare sector is experiencing increased pandemics. Telemedicine has the potential to accelerate healthcare outcomes because it offers real-time services.

 

 

References

Al-Abri, R., & Al-Balushi, A. (2014). Patient satisfaction survey as a tool towards quality improvement. Oman medical journal, 29(1), 3.

Deldar, K., Bahaadinbeigy, K., & Tara, S. M. (2016). Teleconsultation and clinical decision making: a systematic review. Acta Informatica Medica, 24(4), 286. DOI: 10.5455/aim.2016.24.286-292

Erridge, S., Yeung, D. K., Patel, H. R., & Purkayastha, S. (2019). Telementoring of Surgeons: A systematic review. Surgical Innovation, 26(1), 95-111. DOI: 10.1177/1553350618813250

Hanley, J., Pinnock, H., Paterson, M., & McKinstry, B. (2018). Implementing Telemonitoring in Primary Care: Learning from a large qualitative dataset gathered during a series of studies. BMC family practice, 19(1), 118.

Palozzi, G., Schettini, I., & Chirico, A. (2020). Enhancing the Sustainable Goal of Access to Healthcare: Findings from a Literature Review on Telemedicine Employment in Rural Areas. Sustainability, 12(8), 3318.

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