What Is Telemedicine? A Concise Explanation

So, what is telemedicine, exactly? Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Modern technology enables doctors to consult with patients by using video-conferencing tools.

They can share information in real time from one computer screen to another. And they can even see and capture readings from medical devices at a faraway location. Using telemedicine, patients can see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment without having to wait for an appointment. Patients don’t even have to leave home.

Telemedicine VS Telehealth

Healthcare professionals often confused about the usage of terms telemedicine and telehealth. In fact, telehealth and telemedicine are use interchangably so often that there’s no clear distinguishing definition in general usage. However, a few organizations have provide a clear definition of its usage for those discerning.

World Health Organization has adopted the following broad description “Some distinguish telemedicine from telehealth with the former restricted to service delivery by physicians only, and the latter signifying services provided by health professionals”

In general terms, telemedicine is considered the clinical application of technology, while telehealth encompasses a broader array of applications in the field. Telemedicine is considered a subset of Telehealth. Telehealth includes a broad range of technologies and services to provide patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system as a whole. Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit.

Benefits of telemedicine

Health care experts are optimistic that telemedicine will expand access to people who live in remote areas, far away from a clinic or hospital. There is some evidence that telemedicine can improve patient monitoring, reduce costs, and reduce the need for hospital readmission.

Innovations like telemedicine are often a few steps ahead of government. In the United States, both federal and state governments have struggled to keep up. Now more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed parity laws requiring telemedicine consultations to be reimbursed at the same rate as a traditional in-person visit. Also, a number of private insurance companies are willing to reimburse for telemedicine, depending on the patient’s specific plan.  

Many people think of telemedicine as the wave of the future. In fact, the technology has already existed for years. Modern hospitals and clinics are currently offering their patients the option to use telemedicine.  

Telemedicine for Remote Clinics

In many Walmart stores, retail consumers can walk up to a kiosk for a doctor consultation. The doctor is not physically present inside the store. Instead, the customer uses a touchscreen computer to type in their symptoms and enter a virtual waiting room. They are then connected by a video link to a doctor. This use-case is HIPAA-compliant because the video link is encrypted to protect patient health information.

Mobile Health

Sometimes the answer to the question “What is telemedicine?” is simply mobile medicine. It doesn’t require a heavy desktop computer or a lot of equipment. Activities that used to happen only in person are now easy to do on a smartphone. Modern consumers are accustomed to downloading apps and using their smartphones for simple transactions. The same is true for doctor visits. For example, with MDLIVE the patient simply opens the app and clicks to choose a doctor, with whom they can speak either by phone, instant message, or video.    

More recently, we are starting to see small scopes and other peripherals that can plug into a mobile phone. These devices transform the phone into a pocket-sized diagnosis tool, excellent for point-of-care tests.

What Is Telemedicine?

What Is Telemedicine? It’s Device Streaming

Medical devices that can stream their data long-distance include, but are not limited to:

  • Digital stethoscope
  • EKG
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Ultrasound
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Otoscope
  • Dermatoscope

These devices can be packed into a kit and sent out into the field. In this way, telemedicine has proved extremely useful in rural and developing countries like Gabon, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Nigeria, where there is very little access to high-quality medical care. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of distance and improves access to medical services that would otherwise not be available in distant rural communities.   

In this category of medical devices we can also include wearables like FitBit. Data from wearables can be captured via Bluetooth and displayed on a digital dashboard, which allows doctors to monitor their patients’ vital stats.

Consult our Telehealth Expert for more info

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About VSee

Since 2008, VSee has been a leading company in the field of telemedicine. Doctors and hospitals rely on VSee for HIPAA-compliant video as well as several workflow solutions. VSee has designed and implemented telemedicine solutions for NASA, Walmart Clinics, Trinity Hospitals, and many more. Write to sales@vsee.com to schedule your demonstration.