Telehealth - The Way to Reach Patients in Remote Locations
Telehealth is a promising roadmap to rural patient care in the health industry. It pertains to the usage of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to aid and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, user training, addressing public health issues and online medical education.
It is interesting that, even in developed countries like America, a mere 64 % of the rural population has private health insurance and less than 10 % of the physician community practise in remote areas. In the Indian context, total healthcare market size healthcare is about $50 billion and approximately 2% ($1 billion) of this is spent on Telehealth. Hence it has a great probability to expand for improving rural healthcare quality
Forms of Telehealth
- Video conferencing between physicians and remotely placed patients
- Mobile health communication through apps
- Remote patient monitoring( RPM)
- Storage and transmission of medical data including facts and figures
Benefits of Telehealth Services to Patients
- Increases quality of patient care
- Minimizes cost by decreasing readmissions and unnecessary emergency department visits for rural communities.
- Avoids driving long distances to access specialty care
- Enhances monitoring, timeliness, and online communication within the healthcare system
- Overcomes lack of patient care in rural hospitals due to shortage of adequate medical staff and infrastructure
- Increases patient census and provides healthcare reach to the economically backward classes through direct-to-consumer telemedicine options by attracting patients who otherwise wouldn’t seek care from a rural hospital’s network
HealthCare Providers (HCPs)
- Team-based approach to patient care
- Online Doctor Consulting
- Peer group support with virtual networks
- Outsourced diagnostic facilities
- In-home monitoring of patients for follow-ups
- Continuing education and training, eliminating travel and out-of-practice time
Telehealth acts as a’ one stop service’ point for various speciality departments including Radiology, Psychiatry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Dental care ,Audiology, Cardiology Oncology, Obstetrics. It supports following services
- Emergency handling by providing real time access between physicians and local HCPs for consultations and evaluations
- Long term interventions for Chronic diseases by aiding access to integrated care during patient primary care visits including dietician, pharmacy, therapy services
- Home monitoring – Allows patients to monitor and maintain their health conditions at comfort of their homes by transmitting essential patient data to physicians and distributing disease-specific information back to them.
- Intensive care units (ICU) Monitoring – Assists in 24/7 intensive critical care monitoring of ICU patients by specialist teams
- Senior citizen care – Facilitates specialized health services that are inaccessible to elderly citizens residing in distant rural locations
- Online counselling and therapy – Links urban behavioural and mental health counselling services to rural areas
- Secondary services – Telepharmacy services for expanding access to medication dosage and counselling ,creation of virtual professional communities to enhancing patient care through mobile devices usages and on-call interpreter services with visual or audio aids for non -English savvy patients
Challenges for Telehealth Software Companies
- Reimbursement concerns due to limitations and restrictions on certain types of healthcare facilities and on levels of reimbursement due to fee for service systems
- License issues that burdens physicians who intend to expand their services to rural locations
- Affordable Broadband infrastructure rates for exchanging health information
- Malpractice, policy restrictions due to HIPAA and privacy, security, prescribing, and credentialing.
Prevailing trends indicate that most wired hospitals in future will offer telehealth technology services that help to monitor remote patients and record their health data Telehealth certainly offers a unparalled mechanism of synergising modern communication technology advances, and information technology, with biomedical engineering and medical sciences to deliver the healthcare services and patient outcomes on an anytime, anywhere basis. Hence it has a phenomenal impact on many countries, including geographically diverse India with a major rural population.