You may have heard the terms Telemedicine, telehealth, or telecare. Sound like Greek to you?

Thankfully, the Greek and Latin languages give us a simplified meaning. The Greek word “tele” means “far, far off,” and “medicine” comes from the Latin word “medicus” for physician. In its rudimentary form, telemedicine refers to a long-distance physician.

If only it were that simple!

Medicare, Medicaid, state insurance commissions, insurance carriers and healthcare institutions each use their own unique definitions, so it’s best to ask a few clarifying questions before embarking on a telemedicine discussion:

  1. Who is providing care? A physician, nurse, or other practitioner?
  2. What type of device is used? An educational video, live chat, mobile app, audio, email, or other device?
  3. How is care provided? Real-time or pre-recorded information?
  4. What type of data is used? Lab tests? Bio-metric app data? Digital imaging?

Once you’ve established the who, what, and how medical care is provided, make sure you step back and remember the big picture.

The goal of telemedicine, no matter its definition, is to improve patient care. According to the American Telemedicine Association, there are four primary benefits that support this goal:

  1. Improved Access â€“ Millions of patients are no longer dependent upon geography to receive care. Routine and specialized health care comes to the patient, no matter how remote their location. Physicians and health facilities aren’t restricted to an office and can dramatically expand their reach.
  2. Cost Efficiencies â€“Telemedicine has inherent cost advantages to both the patient and provider, by reducing costs and improving efficiencies in the delivery of care.
  3. Improved Quality â€“ Patients can now access quality services that address everything from mental health to acute and chronic conditions, with a high level of patient satisfaction.
  4. Patient Demand â€“ Patients are willing to participate in their own care. Specialized providers and services are readily available, often with convenient scheduling.

Telemedicine is here to stay and might come even closer to home. Alexa can now call your doctor. Artificial intelligence is being used to develop face reading algorithms to diagnose diseases, and elder-care assisting robots are under development. Telemedicine will continue to rapidly evolve to improve care to all types of patient populations.

 

Healthcare providers are rapidly reaping the benefits of telemedicine advances. Providers now have access to a comprehensive data set that goes far beyond previously available information, resulting in more effective treatment plans.  Centralized data banks now include patient visits with all care providers, including specialist visits, pharmacy records, and daily biometric data. With greater access and quicker availability, even the most chronic conditions can be rapidly addressed before the patient visits a doctor or is admitted to a facility.  Medical centers benefit from lower costs to treat even the most complex cases, while increasing patient satisfaction and lowering length of stay.

Telemedicine is constantly changing! For a complete rundown of the current state of Telemedicine, access my webinar and slide deck here. 

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