How Telemedicine Is Giving Patients The Freedom To Drive Around Their City
Telemedicine is a relatively new idea in the field of medical treatment, but with so much of today’s world operating in the digital realm, it makes total sense that it’s taking off. People are also much less inclined to wait for things in this day and age; we really do live in the era of instant gratification and consumerism. But a lot of these developments are pretty handy. Take Netflix, for instance: a process that used to involve driving to the video store to pick up a movie now becomes a ten-second affair through your smart TV’s digital interface. Telemedicine operates under the same principle of providing patients easier, faster access to doctors from the comfort of their own home.
So what exactly is telemedicine? Essentially, it’s the blanket term for a process that allows healthcare professionals to consult with, evaluate, and diagnose patients in remote locations using the technology of telecommunications. The major benefit of this process is that it speeds up the whole doctor-patient interaction, meaning that both parties are able to save time during the consultation. It also allows doctors to reach patients who, either by virtue of their location or their condition, would have trouble accessing a doctor’s office. It also allows far better access to specialists, as it no longer limits patients to the handful of specialists working in and around their local area. Another benefit is that is saves people money, as it cuts out a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth between doctor and patient, as well as eradicating travel time and expenses.
While telemedicine doesn’t exactly sound like the most current term, it actually encompasses any kind of technology that allows doctors to treat patients remotely – which, in 2017, includes a multitude of apps and gadgets that anyone can download on their smartphones or tablets. The field didn’t always appear so green, however; fifty years ago, when hospitals first started experimenting with telemedicine, it was a radical and tumultuous process. The goal back then was the same as it is now: to reach patients in remote locations who couldn’t access a doctor conveniently (or at all). However, the hardware in those times was just not up to the task. As technology expanded rapidly over the next few decades, telemedicine grew with it, expanding into an elaborate, integrated service utilized by hospitals and healthcare professionals all over the country.
This all sounds good in theory, but where are some concrete examples of telemedicine improving patients’ lives in a way that regular doctor visits can? One of the best applications of telemedicine is when it comes to health situations that need to be monitored over a long period of time. Anything to do with the heart falls into this category. If you have an issue with your heart, like a palpitation or irregular rhythm, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to flare up during the fifteen minutes you happen to be sitting with the consultant or lying back for an ECG. With telemedicine, patients can keep track of simple things like heart rate and blood pressure utilizing their smartphone, and then have these results to hand over when they next confer with their doctor.
At Partners Healthcare, a non-profit hospital based in Boston, over 3,000 patients suffering from congestive heart failure were able to use telemedicine to monitor vital statistics at home, and then send on regular updates of their weight, blood pressure, and other figures to the doctors at Partners. The hospital team then used the data to determine which patients were most at risk and required interventions. The effective implementation of this telemedicine-based scheme saw a core team of four nurses successfully take on and treat 250 patients. Other benefits included cutting readmissions to the hospital down by 44%, and saving a cool $10 million in healthcare fees and expenditure.
That’s one shining example of how telemedicine is improving the U.S. healthcare system overall, but it’s not just severe life-and-death cases where the technology can be utilized. Take something as seemingly simple as a parking permit. For many of us, parking is a daily occurrence; we might get frustrated now and again about not being able to find a space, but largely, it’s routine. For some people with disabilities, though, parking can be an absolute nightmare. Even when you’re entitled to a disabled parking space, acquiring the handicap parking permit you need can be an operation in itself. With this kind of case, telemedicine is invaluable. It allows disabled patients to consult with a doctor through their computer, letting them avail of a handicap parking permit in the comfort of their own home. Once they’ve secured the all-important permit, they’re free to drive around the city as much as they like, without worrying about needing to find a suitable parking space.
Ultimately, telemedicine is the future; it’s only going to keep improving as technology develops further and further. Whether it’s treating patients with severe heart conditions or securing a handicap parking permit for those who need one, telemedicine is revolutionizing healthcare, and it’s definitely here to stay!