In this age of technological advancements, healthcare has seen many technological and infrastructural changes as much as it has seen from the medical POV. But the evolution did not stop there. With the turn of the decade, we have come face to face with yet another new concept in healthcare technologies that was accelerated by COVID-19: Digital Health.
In its simplest explanation, digital health refers to the use of technologies to help in improving an individual’s health and well-being. This simple concept has opened new and broader opportunities in the healthcare sector. Digital technologies such as mobile medical apps with clinical decision-making functionalities along with artificial intelligence and machine learning have come a long way to revolutionize health care.
These technologies form up the digital health tool that includes various software and hardware categories like mHealth or mobile health apps, health information technologies, wearable devices, Tele-heath and Telemedicine and more. These tools have vast potentials to help improve our abilities to accurately diagnose and successfully treat diseases as well as enhance the delivery of healthcare to individuals. This, in a form, has brought about a cultural change in the healthcare sector as well.
Through access to patient data regarding physical health symptoms along with mental and social health conditions, digital health tools can provide a holistic approach to their health and as such helps in providing patients with better control over their health.
Through such digital health technologies, consumers can make informed decisions regarding their health. Not only that, but digital health tools also provide consumers with new options and opportunities for prevention against certain life-threatening diseases with early diagnosis as well as monitoring and managing chronic conditions that lay outside the traditional healthcare approaches. Moreover, consumers can better control as well as track various activities related to their health and well-being.
From a business point of view, providers and stakeholders have also benefited from digital health technologies as these provide cost reductions, improved qualities of services, reduced inefficiencies in products along with improved access and more personalized medical prescriptions for patients.
Telemedicine as a Digital Health Tool
Telemedicine is a digital health tool that provides consumers and patients with improved accessibility to their healthcare solutions through increased patient engagement. It is a very cost-effective option. Since its debut in the healthcare industry in the late 1950s, Telemedicine has made much headway and help contribute to seniors with a choice to age in place. Moreover, patients residing in remote and rural areas which earlier had difficulty to access a doctor can now opt for a virtual consultation through Telemedicine.
The most effective functionality of Telemedicine services is that patients and physicians can engage with each other and share information in real-time from one computer to another. Not just that they can also capture and record various readings from medical devices remotely. Diagnosis and treatment are also possible with Telemedicine services.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is not only beneficial for patients but also the various providers as well as stakeholders or payers.
Benefits to Providers
Today various medical services such as healthcare systems, skilled nursing services as well as physician practices are all using Telemedicine for providing more efficient medical care and output to the consumers. Telemedicine incorporates various healthcare software like electronic medical records, AI diagnosis, along with medical streaming devices. These integrations can assist providers in diagnosis and treatment areas. Moreover, with Telemedicine software, providers can monitor patients in real-time, which enable them to adjust treatments based on the real-time conditions of the patients as necessary.
From a business point of view, Telemedicine offers providers with increased revenue, while physicians benefit from the cost-effectiveness and reduction that this digital health tool brings. This is because they can engage with more patients without the need to hire additional staff and/or increased office space.
Benefits to Consumers/Patients
Consumers and patients too have benefited from Telemedicine services. The most important one may be that they can consult with their doctors and physicians from the comfort of their home. Medical streaming devices have helped senior patients to age in place. An indirect benefit through this initiative is that the spread of contagious diseases can now be checked as individuals diagnosed with such conditions don’t have to expose it to others; They can get their healthcare from their quarantine state through virtual consultancy sessions.
It is a very cost-effective solution for patients as they do not need to spend money on transportation purposes as they can now opt for virtual consultancy sessions. This same factor has helped patients to schedule a session during their work hours as well as they can design one during their breaks or even after their work hours. Childcare options are also readily available with Telemedicine services.
Benefits to Stakeholders/Payers
Stakeholders in this initiative, including the big players such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna, are also benefiting from Telemedicine services as it is a cost-saving option for them where patients with substance abuse disorders are concerned. With Telemedicine, the cost per treatment per patient is much cheaper in the overall scheme of things. Cost savings are becoming more visible with the continuous improvement of technologies in this sector.
Applications of Telemedicine
As we have seen, Telemedicine has been benefiting patients and physicians alike with its convenience and effectiveness. This has helped Telemedicine to find its application is a wide range of areas. Some of the most popular functional areas of Telemedicine lie in:
Chronic Disease Management
High-end medical devices have allowed physicians to monitor the conditions of their patients over long distances effectively. Various related parameters like heart rate, glucose levels, blood pressure, etc. can now be accessed with a simple touch on the screen. Telemedicine services have allowed the leading companies in this field to treat patients with chronic diseases. Various surveys show that about 75% of healthcare expenditures in the United States are dedicated towards treatments of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. With Telemedicine solutions, physicians can now manage patients simultaneously from home and hospitals.
Everyone in the healthcare industry will unanimously agree that medical management is a huge deal and at times can be a nightmare, especially where senior citizens are concerned. These patients are most likely the ones to forget their medications. This is the backdrop for Telemedicine solutions. With this technology healthcare professionals can easily monitor and manage the medication schedules of the patients. This has led to improved medical compliance.
Medical Information Sharing
One of the significant role Telemedicine services play is the sharing of medical information between patient and physician as well as physicians and specialists over long distances. Various diagnostic images, blood analysis results and more relevant data can now be shared within a fraction of seconds. This has enabled for a better-informed decision making at critical junctions during treatment periods.
Remote Clinic Telemedicine Services
Retail consumers across various retail markets and departmental stores can now simply walk up to a kiosk and opt for a virtual consultancy session with a doctor thanks to Telemedicine services. The consumer simply uses a touch-screen panel to type in their symptoms and is redirected to a virtual waiting room. A video link shortly connects them to a doctor, and they can easily discuss their health issues at their discretion.
Various medical streaming devices that can share data over long distances include a digital stethoscope, EKG, Pulse oximeter, Ultrasound devices, and more. These devices can easily be packed into a kit and used remotely. Various rural and developing countries have been identified as the best place for their application.
With the advancement in technology, digital health tools such as Telemedicine Services have really played a major role in revolutionizing the industry. Under the appropriate guidance and right conditions opting for these services has seen to be most profitable for patients, physicians, and providers alike.
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