Telemedicine refers to “the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care at a distance” (Alexander 189). Telemedicine assists in bridging the gap between medical personnel and patients, especially in remote locations. It ensures that patients living in remote regions have access to regular medical services, which would otherwise not be available. Telemedicine helps to address emergency and critical situations. Although telemedicine started a long time ago, it is considered a creation of the 20th century. The technology facilitates communication between medical personnel and patients with both faithfulness and expediency. Besides, “Telemedicine facilitates the transmission of imaging, medical, and health informatics data from one health facility to another” (Alexander 191). The contemporary forms of telemedicine use “videotelephony, advanced diagnostic methods supported by distributed client/server applications and telemedical devices to support in-home care” (Alexander 192). This article will discuss telemedicine and its importance to the outside world.
Branches of Telemedicine
There are three primary branches of telemedicine, which are “remote monitoring, store-and-forward, and interactive services” (Alexander 193). The store-and-forward telemedicine entails collecting health data such as biosignals and medical images and sending the information to medical professionals at an appropriate time (Alexander 194). The store-and-forward telemedicine does not necessitate the availability of both parties simultaneously. Medical professionals use store-and-forward telemedicine in pathology, radiology, and dermatology. They transfer data in the form of a structured electronic medical record. In store-and-forward telemedicine, the medical personnel relies “on a history report and audio or video information instead of physical examination” (Alexander 196).
The other terms for remote monitoring telemedicine are testing and self-monitoring. Remote monitoring telemedicine enables medical specialists to observe a patient remotely with the aid of diverse technological gadgets. Remote monitoring is “mainly used to treat chronic illnesses or definite conditions like asthma, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease” (Chau and Hu 299). Remote monitoring telemedicine offers analogous medical results to conventional in-person patient encounters. Besides, it is cost-effective and preferred by a majority of the patients (Chau and Hu 299).
Interactive telemedicine services “offer instantaneous communications between the health care provider and patient” (Chau and Hu 300). The interaction may be in the form of online communication, telephone conversations, or home visits. Interactive telemedicine helps to conduct a multitude of the activities like physical examination, history review, ophthalmology assessment, and psychiatric examination (Chau and Hu 301). Besides, interactive telemedicine may be cost-effective relative to conventional face-to-face visits.
Types of Telemedicine
Telenursing is one of the types of telemedicine. It entails the use of information technology and telecommunication to offer nursing services. Medical professionals use telenursing in remote areas where it is hard for nurses to reach the patients. Besides, different nurses use telenursing to share vital information. Telenursing is a component of telehealth and is related to other multiple medical applications like telemonitoring, teleconsultation, and telediagnosis (Chau and Hu 304). A majority of states are embracing telenursing due to numerous reasons. One of the reasons is the desire to cut down on the cost of health care. Besides, the rise in the number of the chronically sick and aging populations has prompted countries to embrace telenursing. Telenursing has helped to address the shortage of medical personnel, particularly nurses. Besides, it has contributed to minimizing distances and reducing travel duration. A majority of patients can receive medical services at home without having to travel to the hospital.
Telemedicine plays a significant role in helping individuals suffering from trauma. Trauma specialists use telemedicine to liaise with people residing in areas that have been affected by natural calamities like earthquakes. Besides, the specialists use the internet platform to assess the severity of a disaster. Telemedicine enables trauma experts to evaluate traumatic situations and advise on the necessary measures. Chau and Hu argue, “Remote trauma specialists can provide the same quality of clinical assessment and plan of care as a trauma specialist located physically with the patient” (306). Presently, telemedicine is used in “numerous trauma intensive care units to mitigate the spread of contaminations” (Chau and Hu 306). A medical team uses a video conferencing system to assess different patients. The team uses live videos to assess patients’ wounds, respiratory ventilators, and crucial signs. In response, they liaise with nurses at the bedside and direct them accordingly.
Apart from monitoring trauma intensive care units, nurses use telemedicine to offer trauma education. Today, a majority of trauma centers deliver trauma education to medical professionals and health facilities through video conferencing technology. Doctors also use Telemedicine in trauma operating rooms. Trauma surgeons “can observe and consult on cases from a remote location using video conferencing” (Chau and Hu 310). Telemedicine capabilities enable doctors to examine the patients instantaneously. The distant doctor is “capable of controlling the camera to get the best view of the operation” (Chau and Hu 310). Besides, they can appraise the situation and offer their expertise based on the condition of a patient.
The other term for telesurgery is remote surgery. It entails the execution of surgical processes from a remote location. The surgeon does this through a robotic teleoperator system. The distant doctor may provide a tangible response to the user. Telesurgery brings together “elements of robotics and high-speed data connections” (Mort and Finch 69). Nevertheless, the technology encounter challenges with respect to latency, swiftness and dependability of the communication system between the patient and the medical professional.
Importance of Telemedicine to Outside World
A majority of people do not know that it is possible to reach a doctor without having to visit a medical facility. Hence, at times of emergency, many people opt to call for an ambulance to transfer a patient to the hospital. The development of telemedicine is crucial to the outside world since it will benefit the people who reside in remote areas (Mort and Finch 71). Telemedicine will help to save the lives of a majority of patients in remote regions. In case of a tragedy, people can contact a remote physician who can direct them on what to do as they wait for further assistance. Currently, a majority of patients have to visit hospitals for regular checkups. Telemedicine has made it possible for patients to communicate with medical practitioners without having to visit a health facility. Indeed, the technology will facilitate the reduction of the cost of medical care, especially to the poor (Rigby, Roberts, and Thick 56). In other words, the development of telemedicine acts as an eye-opener to the outside world on the alternative ways of accessing medical services at an affordable rate.
Today, many families are struggling to look after disadvantaged, underserved and at-risk relatives. Most societies, especially those living in remote areas, do not have the capacity to prevent, detect or intervene in the case of disease outbreaks. Besides, the available public and private funding cannot cater to all patients. The development of telemedicine will go a long way towards educating the public on how to respond to certain cases of disease outbreaks, therefore reducing infections and casualties (Thrall and Boland 148). It will avoid the cases of patients having to rely on emergency rooms. One of the challenges that affect the health care sector is the poor distribution of medical specialists. The introduction of telemedicine facilitates the provision of medical care to marginalized communities. The introduction of telemedicine services is bound to change the public perceptions of the medical system. The public will assume the responsibility of providing medical professionals with health information whenever it suspects the possibility of a disease outbreak. Therefore, telemedicine will bring about a concerted effort between medical professionals and the community towards health promotion.
The utilization of telemedicine skills to provide health services to citizens living in inaccessible regions is undoubtedly one of the supreme inventions of the 21st century. Telemedicine has enhanced service delivery in areas that were previously inaccessible. Today, medical professionals can provide health services remotely through the help of personnel on the ground. Besides, doctors can use a video conferencing system to monitor traumatic situations and assist the affected patients. Telemedicine has made it possible for nurses to use information technology and telecommunication to offer services to people in marginalized locations. Besides, surgeons can conduct operations using robotic teleoperator systems. In short, telemedicine has not only helped to enhance service delivery but also save lives in the event of an emergency. The development of telemedicine is significant to the outside world because it acts as an eye-opener to the public on the alternative means of accessing quality health care. Moreover, it educates the public on how to lead a healthy life and assists patients in case of a crisis.
Alexander, Max. “Telemedicine in Australia. 1: The Health-Care System and the Development of Telemedicine.” Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 1.4 (2014): 187-195. Print.
Chau, Patrick, and Paul Hu. “Investigating Healthcare Professionals’ Decision to Accept Telemedicine Technology: An Empirical Test of Competing Theories.” Information & Management 39.4 (2014): 297-311. Print.
Mort, Maggie, and Tracy Finch. “Principles of Telemedicine and Telecare: The Perspective of a Citizens’ Panel.” Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 11.1 (2013): 66-75. Print.
Rigby, Michael, R. Roberts, and M. Thick. Taking Health Telematics into the 21st Century, Oxon: Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd, 2012. Print.
Thrall, James, and Giles Boland. “Telemedicine in Practice.” Seminars in Nuclear Medicine 28.2 (2014): 145-157. Print.