In the past decade, telemedicine has grown by leaps and bounds. Fueled by technology, telemedicine allows health care practitioners to diagnose and treat patients from a distance. Whether or not your practice has embraced it, telemedicine offers many benefits, especially to patients in rural areas where access to health care services isn’t always convenient.
The Difference Between Telemedicine and Telehealth
Though both terms are often used to describe remote health care services, there are a few key differences between telemedicine and telehealth. Telemedicine refers to clinical services only, while telehealth is broader in scope, encompassing a breadth of services that includes provider training and continuing education classes, as well as administrative meetings. Telemedicine relies on electronic communications and software, eliminating the need for patients to make a trip to the clinic. It is commonly used in situations where there is little need for in-person visits, such as chronic disease management, follow-up visits, preventative care, post-hospitalization care, medication management, and consultations with specialists.
Benefits to Patients & Providers
Patients utilizing telemedicine services enjoy many benefits, including:
- Time savings
- Lower medical costs
- Privacy and security
- Reduced exposure to sick patients and infectious diseases
Telemedicine can also be beneficial to providers, who can take advantage of the following:
- Increased revenue
- Improved efficiency
- Fewer cancelled appointments
- Improved health outcomes
- Private payer reimbursement
Changes to Health Care Practices
There is little doubt telemedicine is changing the face of health care. Investment in health care technology is now focused more on direct-to-consumer products and services. Early delivery systems relied mostly on video, but telemedicine has expanded to include the development of processes meant to improve the entire workflow. The newest workflow solutions have begun to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), which can significantly enhance the data collection process. While this self-service component improves the efficiency of patient interactions, it will never completely replace human interaction.
Telemedicine is also improving collaboration between providers, utilizing video, text messaging, email, and phone calls to connect specialists with primary care providers and physicians with other hospital staff, such as nurses.
While there are a few drawbacks, trends support the idea that telemedicine is the future. And the future is now.