One type of telemedicine services is via live (or synchronous) interactions.In these interactions, patients and providers or two providers interact in real time.
The real time component of these interchanges allows for information to be shared more transparently and for important follow-up questions to be asked (it may also help a reluctant patient develop trust in the provider — trust or the lack thereof is a common impediment to patient populations embracing telemedicine). There is no time lag with this method.
Store and Forward
Yet, despite the benefits offered by synchronous interactions, many providers utilize the store-and-forward (or asynchronous) method. In store-and-forward type of telemedicine services, important information — such as video and photographic images and diagnostic tests — is stored and then sent on to a medical provider, usually a specialist, at a later date.
The specialist evaluates this information and then responds back. Because there is a time lag, this limits the possibility of asking questions. However, it may also streamline the process — since it does not require coordinating numerous participants’ schedules.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Another type of telemedicine services that is widely utilized is remote patient monitoring. In remote patient monitoring, patients or providers (frequently nurses) will be able to enter key healthcare data and indicators, such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels, or weight, over an extended period of time.
This information will then be collected into a single dataset, and the healthcare team can evaluate any meaningful trends or changes. It can be an invaluable tool/methodology for people with chronic diseases, such as Type II diabetes or congestive heart failure.
Likewise, mobile health may be used as the go-to delivery system for certain patients. In the mobile health system, people will use the technology that is at their disposal to record and input important data. Because people are directly inputting data, there is always the risk of self-reporting errors. And there are certain other dangers inherent in the mHealth system too.
Given that strengths and weaknesses exist in each of these types, increasingly, medical providers are looking for ways to combine these telemedicine services into a more effective and coherent whole.
A hybrid consultation combines elements of both synchronous interactions and store-and-forward processes.
In a hybrid consultation, a specialist usually has access to complex diagnostics that were performed at an earlier date. However, the specialist also has the ability to engage directly with the patient and/or family members. According to Telehealth Resource Centers (2018), these hybrid consultations are most commonly seen in specialties, such as dermatology and cardiology.
These different type of telemedicine services will be discussed in greater detail later in the chapter. However, it is important to remember that no matter what delivery method is selected, the goal remains the same — improving patient outcomes.