During the COVID-19 era, almost every service had to be provided online. Teaching, banking, and even medical checkups were being done online. This generated and built upon an already existing idea of telemedicine and how it could be further improved.
Although it was a major shift in the normal workings of doctors and nurses, it became a necessity due to the exponential rise in COVID patients. On the other hand, it allowed patients to contact their doctors from the comfort of their residence easily.
This particular point played a significant role in advancing the systems already in place for telemedicine communication. Nowadays, people often opt for telemedicine if they don’t feel up to a doctor’s visit. But before that, let’s see what telemedicine is.
Telemedicine: an introduction
Most of you must have telemedicine, the distribution of health services via telecommunication technology. This is usually done long-distance where doctors and patients can communicate and discuss their issues virtually without having to meet.
This is an extremely effective method for individuals with busy routines who cannot take out time for doctor’s appointments. At their convenience, they may call the practitioner and discuss their health condition with them. It not only helps inaccurate diagnosis but can assist in monitoring, care, advice, reminders, intervention, education, and remote admissions.
Telemedicine is not limited to video calls or regular calls. It can entail emails or even something as small as a text message. All of these are included in telemedicine modes of communication. This has all now been enabled by the fast growth and progression of technological advancements that are seen.
What are the benefits of using telemedicine?
With every innovation, there are always those who resist change. Although telemedicine has advanced greatly throughout the years, there is still some skepticism surrounding it.
As people are not physically visiting the doctor, they can argue about the doctor’s lack of attentiveness or perhaps even sound quality. But let us tell you about the benefits of telemedicine.
As we discussed before, telemedicine is the remote transfer of data between patient and practitioner on medical-related issues. This is beneficial to both parties in several ways.
- The patient does not have to spend the time and effort of visiting the doctor every time they are mildly sick or may need medical assistance. They can easily ring up the doctor from the comfort of their house, get thoroughly checked and diagnosed, and infer a mode of treatment.
- There is a reduced risk of spreading contagious diseases. Many patients come to the hospital or clinic with runny noses and bacterial or fungal infections. This not only puts the practitioner at risk of contracting the disease, rather it can spread exponentially through other patients that come into contact with the infected patient.
- Patients from rural areas can seek medical advice at any time. Those who would sometimes have to drive for hours to see a proper doctor can easily get themselves checked whenever they feel ill.
- Busy routine? No problem. Telemedicine erases the issues of clinic timings or rush hours. Although there may be wait time even in telemedicine, it is significantly reduced. And many hospitals may have 24/7 hotlines to deal with issues at any time of the day.
Sometimes the root cause of many infections or illnesses lies in the patient’s surroundings or the environment they reside. A roommate who is a chain smoker may cause more distress to a patient with asthma. Mold in some parts of the house may infect food which can cause digestive issues.
By observing the patient’s surroundings and lifestyle, practitioners can sometimes form a better diagnosis than if they saw the patient in their OPD.
Family members’ understanding
In the case of a child or even someone who is not well-versed in explaining their symptoms, they can rely on a family member who is close by to explain it for them. This can lead to a more accurate diagnosis as the doctor will have a better idea of what issues are faced by the patient.
Most of the time, telemedicine is cheaper compared to normal doctor’s visits. As doctors do not have to pay for rent or large offices, they usually charge less. A burden is taken off the patient. This is due to telecommunication and remote checkups.
Fewer missed appointments
A large portion of people admits that the reason they do not follow through with doctor’s appointments is that they are simply not available at that time. This is eliminated through telemedicine as you do not need to leave work or take time out. You can simply call your practitioner, get your checkup, and get back to work.
A common habit of most patients is to stop visiting the doctor once they feel slightly better. This is because they do not want to waste time and effort visiting the doctor when they do not feel ill anymore. That is what telemedicine helps with. Patients can simply drop their physicians a text or email that they are feeling better, and physicians can follow up much more easily.
Telemedicine vs. telehealth: what’s the difference?
Many people will often use both these terms interchangeably, telemedicine and telehealth. This is not correct as both have a small but significant difference between them.
Telemedicine always refers to clinical services like diagnostic procedures. Telehealth, on the other hand, encompasses non-clinical services as well, such as public health functions.
Types of telemedicine services
Telemedicine can be broken down into numerous smaller branches, but there are three main types most people know. All 3 of them connect or transmit medical data in some way and are used in multiple ways around the world.
Interactive medicine entails patients and practitioners communicating with each other in real-time without any physical interaction. This virtual interaction is basically like an online check-up where the patient can explain his symptoms through call whilst displaying them through video. The doctor can also examine and diagnose the patient on-call.
These check-ups can also include additional information taken by the practitioner, such as family history, lifestyle, and psychiatric evaluations in psychiatric patients.
Remote patient monitoring
Another service that can be provided in telemedicine is remote patient monitoring. The patient can connect to a machine on their premises, such as an EKG or pulse oximeter.
These readings are then sent to the practitioner, who can monitor these readings over a longer period. Medical devices can be programmed to send vitals and other necessary information to healthcare providers periodically.
Store and forward
This type of telemedicine involves sharing patient information from one healthcare provider to another. This is done virtually, and confidentiality must be maintained. For example, a primary care physician may share patient records with the concerned healthcare provider for better diagnosis. This leads to less repetitive testing.
How does telemedicine work?
Telemedicine is remote communication between patients and practitioners. It can work in 2 ways: a patient portal or virtual appointments.
Patient portals are permanent portals where the history, previous check-ups, medication, and other things are already listed. After every check-up, new information is added to this portal to keep it updated.
Virtual appointments are more short-term. The patient sets an appointment with the doctor, discusses his signs and symptoms, and receives a plan of action to treat the illness.
The communication aspect of telemedicine can be done through calls, videos, texts, or emails.
Finding the best telemedicine practioner: what to look for
There are numerous telemedicine practitioners out there. Each practitioner doesn’t need to get along with each patient, depending on their personalities. That is why we have compiled a list of dos and don’ts for you to follow.
Things to look for
- Good Ratings/ Reviews: A doctor is often judged by the number of patients he has. This cannot be judged while dealing with telemedicine, so your only source of credibility remains in the reviews. Check out reviews posted by other patients on their behavior and diagnostic abilities.
- Medication Recommendation: Some doctors have a habit of prescribing excessive or additional medication, which is not always needed. Others only prescribe higher-priced medication that may be outside someone’s budget. Check to make sure the medication they prescribe is needed and affordable.
If the doctor passes both these checks, they are probably a good fit for you, and you should check them out.
Things to avoid
- Rude Behaviour: Many doctors are considered great diagnosticians but lack the etiquette to go along with it. It is best to avoid practitioners like these as they may not fully listen to your symptoms and misdiagnose you.
- Breach of Confidentiality: Telemedicine is a virtual method of sharing information, meaning privacy is a must. If a healthcare provider cannot maintain your privacy effectively, it is best to stay away.
If practitioners have either of these qualities, you will be better off with a different doctor.
Telemedicine is an up-and-coming model of checkups, and it is best to get acquainted with it. We’ve given you a basic rundown on the topic and some dos and don’ts you should follow when looking for these telemedicine doctors.